Target: Rick Scott, Governor of Florida
Goal: Repeal poorly worded law that illegalizes internet cafes, but has potential to ban smartphones and computers
With the goal of cracking down on internet gambling, Florida legislators passed a law that had the unfortunate, albeit accidental side effect of banning all computers and smartphones in the state. This carelessly worded legislation was approved by Florida Governor Scott, and has now come under fire for failing to specify what falls under the definition of “electronic gambling devices.” Please demand that Florida repeal this dangerously vague law that has the potential to restrict internet access.
This ban was passed in the wake of a scandal that incriminated former Florida Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll for using a veterans’ charity as a front for online gambling in internet cafes. But that scandal should not prompt such overreaching laws like a ban on all devices that could potentially be used to illegally gamble.
Since the legislation passed, roughly a thousand locally-owned internet cafes have had to close their doors, putting an estimated 14,000 people out of work. Another consequence has been the $1 billion loss in revenue that these local businesses would have contributed to. Recently a lawsuit was filed by Consuelo Zapata, who had operated an internet cafe that provided online access mainly to migrant workers. The law firm representing Zapata challenges the constitutionality of the law, arguing that legislators “rushed to judgment and they took what they saw as a very specific problem and essentially criminalized everything.”
While it is unlikely that Florida law enforcement will be confiscating smartphones, PCs, and iPads any time in the near future, this legislation needs articulation since it affects people’s online access. Please sign this petition and call for the repeal of Florida’s irresponsibly phrased law.
Dear Governor of Florida Rick Scott,
While I am aware of the recent scandal involving former Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll and her involvement in illegal gambling operations in certain internet cafes, I don’t think you were aware of the effects of banning slot machines and internet cafes when you signed it into law. Now that the unknown implications of this ban are being challenged in court by the former internet cafe operator Consuelo Zapata and his representatives, it is the opportune time to repeal this dangerously unspecific legislation.
Though I am sure it was not your intention to criminalize all devices that could access the internet since they fall under the law’s definition of an illegal slot machine, but that is the risk that this legislation is posing. It is bad enough that people who cannot afford to own a computer or smartphone can no longer pay for time on the internet, but now this ban has the authority to make places like Starbucks illegal just for providing access to Wifi.
With your approval of this law, an estimated 14,000 people have lost their jobs, and unintended results like the ban on computers and other electronic devices might just be around the corner. Please recognize the unconstitutional nature of this legislation and repeal this messily worded law.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Roger Price via Flickr