Are truckers really boycotting Florida over Gov DeSantis’ immigration policies?

Another day, another viral claim on TikTok that turns out to be wildly exaggerated at best.

Liberals on Twitter spent the past few days celebrating after rumours emerged claiming that the state of Florida, headed by conservative culture warrior and likely 2024 contender Ron DeSantis, was experiencing a sudden and massive food shortage in grocery stores thanks to a boycott of the state by the nation’s truckers.

According to the rumours, truckers across the United States had suddenly decided en masse to cease deliveries to the Sunshine State, with the reason supposedly being a new bill signed into law by the governor strengthening immigration law enforcement in the state.

It was a wild claim, backed up by a series of TikTok videos that quickly fooled various big left-leaning accounts into parroting the narrative: A TikTok video of a man recording a line of empty store shelves at a grocery store was quickly shared thousands of times as evidence of the supposed crisis.

Aiding the growing story was a series of TikToks from individual truckers making bold claims about how they themselves would participate in a boycott, circulated on Twitter by an independent journalist focused on the immigration beat.

His thread had been viewed more than 3 million times by Monday afternoon.

The issue even received media coverage: A local newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat, covered the TikToks and explained the basics of the immigration law, all the while claiming authoritatively that truckers were “not delivering to Florida”. Newsweek published an uncritical look at the TikToks as well, while noting that it couldn’t actually verify whether the video showing empty shelves had even been recorded in Florida.

A quick scan of various Publix locations (Florida’s largest supermarket chain) across the state indicated no service disruptions or shortages in the state, and there was no evidence on social media of any stores with empty shelves beyond the one singular TikTok filmed by someone named “PJ’s Journey”.

There were even signs that the original TikTok video had been recorded by someone who knew better; the refrigerated store shelves in the video were stripped completely bare, an act usually only done when a technical malfunction occurs, and a pile of apparently to-be-stocked merchandise can be seen on a cart as the camera passes by.

Both Newsweek and the Tallahassee Democrat attempted to couch their articles with language admitting that the boycott’s existence could not be proven, but in the latter’s case, that explanation was only included further down from language that definitively claimed otherwise.

All in all, the episode is an example of how misinformation can flourish on social media in a politically charged environment.