How Disney Got That 'Theme Park Exemption' In Ron DeSantis' Unconstitutional Social Media Bill
from the foia-for-the-win dept
It’s been almost exactly a year since Florida
Man Governor, Ron DeSantis announced plans to try to pass a law that would ban social media websites from taking down misinformation, abuse, and other types of speech. When the final bill came out, at the very last minute, Florida Rep. Blaise Ingoglia tried to sneak in an amendment that carved out Disney, by saying the law didn’t apply to any company that owned a theme park. This took other legislators by surprise, as indicated in this somewhat incredible video of Florida Reps. Anna Eskamani and Andrew Learned confronting Ingoglia over this amendment and what it meant:
In that video, Ingoglia flat out admits that the goal was to try to carve Disney+ out of the definition of a “social media provider.” He says they looked at other possible language changes and adding the “theme park” exemption was just the easiest way to exclude Disney. Of course, that never made any sense. In the video he says, repeatedly, that this is to protect “reviews” on Disney+, which is weird because Disney+ doesn’t have reviews. He also tries to make weird distinctions between Disney and Netflix which suggests a really confused understanding of Section 230 and how it interacts with first party and third party content. Amusingly, Eskamani points out at one point that Disney owns other websites — like ESPN.com — and asks if they, too, would be exempted from the bill, and Ingoglia responds in the most inane way possible: “as long as they follow their policies, everything should be fine.” Which… makes no sense and didn’t answer the question.
Either way, the bill has since (rightly) been declared unconstitutional (though Florida is appealing), and the issue of the theme park exemption was mostly a sideshow in the ruling.
However, it still left many people scratching their heads as to how that came about — including intrepid reporter Jason Garcia, who filed some freedom of information requests with the Governor’s office to see if he could find out the backstory behind the Disney theme park exemption… and, let me tell you, he hit pay dirt. The emails reveal quite a lot. And, as Garcia notes:
Ron DeSantis? willingness to give Disney an incoherent carveout from this bill raises real questions about whether the governor really cared about cracking down on Big Tech ? or whether he just cared about making voters think he?d cracked down on Big Tech.
But more telling is the finding that the “amendment” appeared to come directly from Disney. The governor’s legislative affairs director, Stephanie Kopelousos, emailed staffers in the Florida House to call her, and then 21 minutes later, emailed them the theme park amendment, with the subject line: “New Disney language.” And, just to underline the fact that Kopelousos was corresponding with Disney folks, when some House staffers pushed back on some ideas this happened:
In one email to the other governor?s office and House staffers, Kopelousos sent a proposal under the subject line, ?Latest from Disney.? A few hours later, after other staffers expressed concern that idea was too broad, she sent in another attempt, which she explained with the note, ?Disney responded with this.?
At one point, Disney, through Kopelousos, suggested carving out “journalism” organizations (as if Disney is a journalism organization). That created something of a mess:
An hour later, Kopelousos emailed a third possibility. The subject line was ?New Disney language,? and the language, she told the others, came ?From Adam,? presumably a reference to a Disney lobbyist named Adam Babington.
?So Disney is a journalistic enterprise now?? Kurt Hamon, the staff director for the House Commerce Committee, wrote in response to of the company?s ideas. ?I would say no to this one too…why would we [exempt] journalism enterprises? Would Google, Facebook and Twitter qualify as a journalistic enterprise??
?If they have a problem with Kurt?s narrow suggestion, then they are probably doing or seeking to do more than they have indicated,? James Utheier, who was DeSantis? general counsel and is now the governor?s chief of staff, wrote in response to another.
Basically, it appears that Disney kept trying to carve itself out and, as Ingoglia more or less admitted, with the clock ticking down on the Florida legislative session, most of Disney’s own suggestions were ridiculous — so the nonsense “theme park exemption” became the easiest to carve out Disney.
Some of these emails are hilarious.
I mean, this isn’t a surprise, but it just confirms what was obvious all along. DeSantis proposed this dumb idea, and his minions in the legislature ran with it, without bothering to think through basically any of the consequences of the bill (let alone the constitutional problems with it). And then just as they were about to pass it, a Disney lobbyist realized “shit, we have websites too…” and demanded a carve out.
This is not how law-making is supposed to be done, but it sure is how law-making often is done. It sure shows the kind of soft corruption of the system, in which a large company in the state, like Disney, get to write themselves out of bills.
For what it’s worth, Garcia also notes that the Senate companion to the House bill sailed through… basically because Florida state Senator Ray Rodriques flat out lied about it when questioned. He noted that the House had passed a similar bill to one they had passed, noting “the House placed some amendments on it.” He then describes the other amendments the House added (which made the bill even dumber, but whatever) and then skips right over the Disney exemption. So then the Senate President asks the Senate to approve the Disney Amendment without anyone even saying what it was. Another state Senator, Perry Thurston, jumps in to ask what’s in the amendment.
The Senate President, Wilton Simpson, says: “Senator Rodrigues explained the amendment. The amendment that he explained was this amendment.”
Except, that’s not true. At all. Rodrigues skipped right over the theme park amendment. And… then the Senate just voted to allow the amendment without ever actually saying what it did. In some ways, this is even more embarrassing than the Eskamani/Learned/Ingoglia discussion in the House. At least they were able to discuss the Disney exemption in the open and admit to what it did. Rodriguez just flat tried to ignore it to get it included…
And people wonder why the public doesn’t trust politicians? Perhaps this cronyism and nonsense is why…
Filed Under: 1st amendment, blaise ingoglia, content moderation, corruption, florida, ray rodrigues, ron desantis, section 230, theme park
Comments on “How Disney Got That 'Theme Park Exemption' In Ron DeSantis' Unconstitutional Social Media Bill”
Something something functional democracy… o_O
Pretty sure this isn’t how things are are supposed to work & in a real nation with the rule of law this would be raising all sorts of questions about quid pro quo.
I mean its one thing to offer an Elsa impersonator to a rep to get his support, but what they did seems worse.
Also one really has to wonder how Disney feels right now.
The bill was never meant to go anywhere yet they still have to give things to get their carve out in a bill that would never pass muster.
I mean its not like Death Santis would lie to the voter AND his backers… (falls out of his chair laughing)
That is absolutely not how a proper democracy is supposed to work.
I would also take issue with Mike’s characterizing this as "soft corruption". It doesn’t seem that soft to me.
I suspect Perry Thurston is feeling burned too.
Perhaps this will be a learning experience.
Oh come on, skip the pretense
It probably made a lot more sense when Disney’s lawyers tried to explain it to him, but since he is dumb as a rock, they decided their time would be better spent marking up the cheque in return for him agreeing to look as dumb as he is.
You really need to stop reading more into what is a flat-out act of corruption and bribery, something which is quite normal, legal, and acceptable in the United States of America though rarely in civilized countries.
Wonderful laws, brought to you by the Wonderful World of Disney!
What could possibly go wrong?
FL is Goofy
Rep. Eskamani missed a layup by not asking if Disney-owned ABC News was exempt.
So we are surprised…
…that a company who employs nearly 80k people in the state has political clout?
Re: So we are surprised…
No, we are surprised that Disney managed to get Goofy elected as a representative.
Re: Re: So we are surprised…
Not surprised at all.
Goofy has about as much credibility as most US Senators and Congresscritters, so the new one was merely joining the club.
Disney practically owns Florida
Disney may as well own Florida. Ought to rename Tallahassee to Mickeyville.
"Florida is appealing…"
Not to me. I have no interest in going there ever.
Probably an autocorrection typo for "appalling".
For those who seem to have forgotten…
The carve out from Disney was because of all the companies people forgot it actually owns and would be affected by the stupid legislation carved about by the new Nazi regime.
I'm surprised Disney got caught
How many times have we read stories about laws that are thousands and thousands of pages long? And it’s only later that we realize there is a small claws on page 2000 that gives such-and-such exemption to such and such company.
So it’s a little surprising that Disney actually got caught trying to slip a clause into this bill, when other companies are slipping clauses into federal laws all the time.
Re: I'm surprised Disney got caught
The other clauses had better subtly and pretenses to rationalize them. The random-ass theme park for blatantly unconstitutional social media regulation was especially clownish.