In an era where digital communication intersects with governance, the revelations of government intervention in social media companies have ignited a contentious dialogue on free speech and its preservation. The Market Institute President Charles Sauer underscores in Real Clear Markets that this issue surpasses debates over private company autonomy, emphasizing how government involvement transforms platforms into speech police.
“Many Americans were shocked by the recent revelations showing the extent to which government officials were ordering around social media companies. The dictation included efforts to silence views and stories contradicting the official government stance on topics ranging from the effectiveness of masks and vaccines in fighting COVID, to the true story of Hunter Biden’s “laptop from hell.” These revelations show that the debate over online censorship is not about the right of private companies to decide what speech they will allow on their platforms, but about government officials deputizing private companies to act as speech police in order to get around the First Amendment.
The reason big tech obeys big government is not just because they share the ideologies of the government officials in charge, but because it is to their advantage to stay in the federal bureaucracy’s good graces. This is why, contrary to the claims of some politicians, the solution is not to give government more power over big tech, but to separate tech and state.
The Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act (HR 140), which would be a good start towards this goal, passed the House earlier this year. This bill forbids government officials from inducing a private company to censor an American citizen. This bill is a good first step, but Congress needs to do more.
In a perfect world, Congress would follow the lead of Federal Judge Terry Doughty, who issued a preliminary injunction in a case brought by several state attorneys general and victims of government-imposed online censorship, appropriately on the Fourth of July. The injunction, which includes a long list of federal agencies and employees, forbids them from contacting any social media company to “convince” them to censor any American. Among those covered by the order are the Department of Health and Human Services—which played a major role in the attempt to silence and smear critics of the COVID lockdowns and mask and vaccine mandates. The FBI, the Justice Department, and the big guy himself are also named.
Fortunately, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, and Representative Jim Jordan, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, have teamed up to introduce the Free Speech Protection Act. This bill prohibits any employee of the federal-government or a federal contractor from using their position to undermine legitimate First Amendment activity.
The bill requires federal agencies to file, and make publicly available, reports on any contact the agency’s employees have with a social media company. It also ends the Biden Administration’s practice of giving federal grants to organizations whose sole mission is identifying individuals that should be censored.
Any federal employee or contractor who violates the bill would be subject to fines of at least $10,000 and suspension, demotion, or termination, as well as a lifetime ban on ever working for the federal government again.”