Fact check: Liberal website changes headline that falsely claimed DeSantis signed bill requiring students to register their political views


The liberal website Salon changed a headline that falsely stated that a bill signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis requires Florida students and faculty to register their political views with the state.

The law 2021 requires public colleges and universities in Florida to conduct annual surveys on the topic of “intellectual freedom and diversity of viewpoints.” But unlike the inexact original show title, the law does not oblige anyone to register their political opinions. Students and faculty members can decide whether or not to participate in surveys, which are anonymous.

Salon posted title in June 2021. His revision Wednesday, more than a year later, came after the article went viral among some Democrats on Twitter amid talk of DeSantis’ possible run for president.

Ahead of Salon’s review, his false claim was promoted this week by various Democratic commentatorsby Florida Agriculture Commissioner and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried (who later deleted the tweet that linked to the article in the Salon), and even by famous novelist Stephen Kingwho has over 6.7 million Twitter followers and has been a tough DeSantis review.

Salon editor Andrew O’Hehir said in an email Thursday that while another Salon editor had defended the original headline in 2021, the publication recently took another look and concluded that the headline “gave a misleading impression of what Florida law actually said, and failed to live up to our editorial standards.” Salon changed the title from “DeSantis signs bill requiring Florida students and faculty to register their political views with the state” to “DeSantis signs bill requiring Florida students and faculty to be surveyed.” Florida on their political views”.

DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said in an email Thursday that her colleagues had unsuccessfully has tried for Salon to change the title in 2021. She said, “Good to see that Salon finally changed their fake title after the pushback they received yesterday. It should have happened much sooner. Even better, the journalist and the editors of the Salon should have read the legislation before writing an article about it (a good practice for journalism, in general!).

King said in a comment sent by a rep on Friday, “I regret posting the headline without being more convinced the story was correct. Salon is generally more reliable. Twitter is a constant learning experience, and I will try to do better.

DeSantis signed the rightknown as HB 233, in June 2021. It claims when universities promoted certain “orthodoxies” while avoiding or suppressing other points of view.

The law warrants that Florida’s public colleges and universities annually conduct “objective, nonpartisan, and statistically valid” surveys created or selected by the state Board of Education. These surveys are needed to assess “the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented” at these institutions and the extent to which “members of the college community, including students, faculty and staff, feel free to express their beliefs and views on campus and in the classroom. The state Board of Education is required to publish the survey results annually.

The law has been controversial from the start. The opponents have describe investigations as an attack on academic freedom and freedom of expression and association, argued that the investigations are intended to suppress political views with which Florida Republicans disagree, and expressed concerns that the results could be used by these Republicans to target institutions or professors for budget cuts or other penalties. Opponents also argued that the inauguration Surveys 2022 include inappropriate “leading” questions.

A lawsuit challenging the law headed for trial. And the United Faculty of Florida union has urged “all higher education faculty, staff and students” not to complete the surveys.

People are entitled to their subjective positions on the issue. But this week’s viral tweets made a claim of fact: that DeSantis had signed a bill requiring students and faculty to register their political views with the state. And that is simply incorrect.

Nothing in the law says anyone is required to complete the surveys. The law also doesn’t specify that completing the surveys should be optional – but it is indeed optional so far. The introduction to the 2022 surveys, which were sent out in April, made it clear that participation “is entirely voluntary” and that respondents “are free not to answer any questions or to withdraw from the survey at any time”. . The Tallahassee Democratic newspaper reported in April.

Second, although the law does not specify that investigations must be anonymous, anonymity has also been state policy. The introduction to the 2022 surveys stated: “No personally identifiable information will be associated with your responses. This survey is anonymous and responses will only be reported at the group level, not the individual level. (Opponents have argued that faculty members, especially members of minority demographic groups, could yet to be identified through their responses to survey questions.)

This article has been updated to add a comment from author Stephen King.

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