Over the past two years, Democratic and Republican lawmakers in both Washington and Tallahassee have viewed large technology companies (traditionally Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Meta, and Twitter), with increased hostility.
In many cases, lawmakers have made cracking down on these companies and their business practices central to their political identities and election campaigns.
While this hostility might be based on legitimate concerns over the role of technology in an increasingly digital society, imposing pernicious restraints on how select companies operate would have far-reaching consequences for economic prosperity, both here in Florida and across the country.
When dealing with regulating technology companies, lawmakers on the left and right should proceed with caution and ensure policies do not harm the significant economic benefits that innovation provides to Florida.
Conservative lawmakers have long complained that select technology companies hold liberal biases and are using content moderation to unfairly censor or suppress conservative speech. In response to these beliefs, Florida passed Senate Bill 7072 that, if not declared unconstitutional by the 11th Circuit, would have allowed Floridians to sue platforms that removed their online speech.
Lawmakers on the left have taken a similarly hostile stance. Liberals fear that tech platforms are not doing enough to moderate online content and have allowed hate speech or “misinformation” to proliferate online. In a letter to then-Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren complained his company allowed “blatant lies to spread on social media without consequence.”
Additionally, lawmakers from both parties have warned that tech platforms use their significant capital resources and alleged anti-competitive behavior to suppress competition and maintain market dominance.
While lawmakers from both sides of the aisle might have concerns about how companies operate, they should also consider the significant economic contributions they provide when weighing any new regulation.
Failing to recognize the economic contributions that technology and innovation provides raises the likelihood that lawmakers will pursue legislation that hurts Florida’s economy and curtails our existing growth.
It’s a cliché, but lawmakers shouldn’t cut off their noses to spite their faces.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and a regular target of lawmakers’ wrath, has become a vital platform for small and medium-sized enterprises in Florida. Recently, the company reported that 83% of small businesses (SMBs) in Florida were “operational or engaging in any revenue-generating activities” on the social media platform.
Additionally, 32% of operational SMBs in Florida on Facebook reported: “their sales in the past 30 days were higher when compared to the same month last year.”
Amazon, another large tech company, also made significant contributions to Florida’s economy. The Seattle-based online marketplace reported by the end of 2021, it created 59,000 jobs in Florida. The tech giant also reports having over 137,000 third-party sellers on its platform based in Florida, providing consumers across the country with low-priced goods made in the Sunshine State.
For small businesses in Florida, both Facebook and Amazon have become critical components of their operations. The social media platform, with over 200 million active users in the United States, and Amazon with its 163 million Prime members in the United States, allows small businesses to achieve greater visibility and reach more customers. Without access to these customers, there are likely thousands of Florida small businesses that would cease to exist. w
While Amazon and Meta are just two large technology companies operating in Florida, they provide the clearest evidence of the importance of technology and innovation to the state’s economy. It is within this prism that lawmakers, regardless of party, should consider the total impact of future regulations.
Edward Longe is the director of the Center for Technology and Innovation at The James Madison Institute.