Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich slammed a Florida Republican lawmaker for introducing legislation that would require political bloggers to register with the state.
State Senator Jason Brodeur filed a bill last week that would require bloggers who are covering political figures in Florida—including the governor, lieutenant governor, Cabinet or state legislators—to register with the state and report whether they received compensation for their posts.
The bill has drawn criticism from free speech advocates, who have warned that it would eat away at the constitutionally-protected right to freedom of speech and press. It is the latest bill introduced by Florida Republicans to spark First Amendment concerns. Brodeur has defended the bill, saying that paid bloggers equate to lobbyists and should therefore be required to report their compensation.
Gingrich joined the growing list of critics who have taken issue with the bill on Sunday. He took to Twitter to demand Brodeur withdraw the bill, describing it as “insane.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks on January 4, 2012, in Manchester, New Hampshire. Gingrich, a Republican, on Sunday slammed a Florida GOP lawmaker for introducing a bill that would require political bloggers to register with the state. Matthew Cavanaugh/Getty Images
“The idea that bloggers criticizing a politician should register with the government is insane. it is an embarrassment that it is a Republican state legislator in Florida who introduced a bill to that effect. He should withdraw it immediately,” he tweeted.
Clay Calvert, professor emeritus of law at the University of Florida, told Newsweek on Sunday that the legislation is “highly problematic.” He described the bill as an attempt for the government to “look under the hood of journalism” to learn about who is paying these bloggers.
“It is tantamount to requiring bloggers to register, and that’s a form of licensing. One of the reasons we have the First Amendment is to give the press freedom, and to be free from government control,” Calvert said.
Calvert also warned the bill includes vague language about compensation. It also likely violates the First Amendment protection from the government compelling speech from an individual, he said.
The idea that bloggers criticizing a politician should register with the government is insane. it is an embarrassment that it is a Republican state legislator in Florida who introduced a bill to that effect. He should withdraw it immediately.
— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) March 5, 2023
In recent remarks to Florida Politics, Brodeur defended his proposed legislation.
“Paid bloggers are lobbyists who write instead of talk. They both are professional electioneers. If lobbyists have to register and report, why shouldn’t paid bloggers?” he said.
The bill would require bloggers to register with the state within five days of any post mentioning a state official, according to Florida Politics. It would then require bloggers to file monthly reports listing posts that mention officials, as well as any compensation for those posts.
Republican Defamation Bill Raises Concerns Over Free Speech
Republican lawmakers in Florida previously raised eyebrows over bills that critics say would violate the First Amendment.
A bill introduced last month, if passed, would roll back actual malice standards for individuals accused of discrimination, thus making it easier to file defamation lawsuits.
Calvert told Newsweek that the bills come as many Republicans believe the mainstream press is too liberal.
“Florida is considered a Republican state, many conservatives feel that the press is too liberal,” he said. “Both of these pieces of legislation tap into that notion that the press is too protected.”
Florida Republicans have introduced a number of other bills in recent weeks that have sparked backlash, including legislation to “cancel” the state’s Democratic Party and a bill that would limit peoples’ ability to approach police officers.
Newsweek reached out to Brodeur for comment.