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Florida Senate Considers Bill Making Accusations Of Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, Or Transphobia Defamatory

The bill will allow for someone to sue another person for calling them one of the listed words.

A new bill has been pushed to the Florida Senate that would make it possible to be charged with defamation if you accuse someone of being racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic. Such accusations would no longer fall under the protection of freedom of speech if the bill is passed.

The bill, called SB 1780 Defamation, False Light, and Unauthorized Publication of Name or Likeness, will allow someone to sue another person for calling them one of the listed words, CBS reports.

The bill reads, “An allegation that the plaintiff has discriminated against another person or group because of their race, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity constitutes defamation per se.” Regardless of whether the accusations are true or false, under SB 1780, it would be defamatory to say.

Another essential stipulation of the bill is that provable “actual malice” is no longer a requirement — something that has been essential in defamation suits in the past. By allowing for a standard fact finder to infer malice automatically, any accusation of someone else being discriminatory has a lower investigative threshold before a lawsuit can be passed.

SB 1780 also includes sections concerning public figures and journalists and how they would be affected by the change. Not only would it restrict those who count as “public figures” by restricting the definition to not include “non-elected or appointed public employees and individuals who gained notoriety by publicly defending themselves against accusations, giving interviews or being the subject of a viral video, image, or statement uploaded on the Internet,” it also extends to any statements made that are made in the media.

As for journalists, SB 1780 will impose notable restrictions. According to the bill, any statements made by anonymous sources will be “presumptively false,” subjecting journalists to vulnerabilities to lawsuits or reveal their sources.

The punishment for defamation under the new bill is a fine of at least $35,000 if a defendant is found liable.

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