Revived Florida Bill Considers Accusations of Racism, Sexism as Defamation; Zeros in on Journalists

Revived Florida Bill Considers Accusations of Racism, Sexism as Defamation; Zeros in on Journalists

A revived defamation bill makes it easier to sue journalists, and classifies accusations of racism as defamation

Liv Caputo
Liv Caputo
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January 19, 2024

TALLAHASSEE, FL --- A new bill would classify allegations of racism, sexism, or homophobia as defamation, branding the defendant with fines of up to $35,000. The legislation would also remove a journalist's usage of anonymous sources, facilitating the process to sue a reporter for defamation.

SB 1780, proposed by Republican Sen. Jason Brodeur, considers claims of another's discriminatory behavior as "defamation per se", or a statement "so egregious that the law presumes that it was defamatory." The bill prohibits a defendant from providing the plaintiff's comments on a "person or group because of their race, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity," as proof of the alleged discrimination.

The bill goes on, writing that "a statement by an anonymous source is presumptively false for purposes of a defamation action,". This removes journalistic privilege, a measure allowing journalists to refuse to disclose anonymous sources. Because of this, it would ease the process of suing a journalist.

SB 1780, linked to two similar bills in the House and Senate, expands on a killed bill from last session, also proposed by Sen. Brodeur. Gov. DeSantis voiced his support for the 2023 measure, stating that "legacy media [companies] are probably the leading purveyors of disinformation in our entire society,” he said, urging legislators “to be standing up for the little guy” against these companies.

Last year, co-sponsor Rep. Alex Andrade promised to revive the dead bill this legislative session. He has held true to his word, sponsoring the comparable legislation HB 757. The bill passed in committee Thursday morning.

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Liv Caputo

Liv Caputo

Livia Caputo is a senior at Florida State University, working on a major in Criminology, and a triple minor in Psychology, Communications, and German. She has been working on a journalism career for the past year, and hopes to become a successful reporter after graduation. Her work has been cited in Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail

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