As the Biden administration continues to crack down on what it deems as “disinformation” on social media platforms, House Republicans are taking action to protect Americans’ First Amendment rights.
The two bills proposed this week by House Republicans aim to prevent the federal government from working with Big Tech to stifle free speech under the guise of combating “disinformation.”
The first bill introduced by Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., would expand the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from participating in political activities in their official positions. The second bill introduced by Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., would require a report to Congress on every instance in the last five years that a government agency suppressed lawful free speech on social media and other Big Tech platforms.
Republicans claim that the Biden administration has been bullying social media companies to censor certain views and news on their platforms. Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki even said during a July 2021 press briefing that once users are banned from one social media platform for spreading coronavirus “misinformation,” they should be expelled from all others as well.
“We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation. We’re working with doctors and medical experts… who are popular with their audience with accurate information,” she said at the time. “So, we’re helping get trusted content out there.”
Republicans argue that this type of censorship is a direct attack on Americans’ First Amendment rights. In response, Comer introduced the “Protecting Free Speech from Government Interference Act,” which would make any form of censorship by a federal government official “an illegal federal personnel activity subject to disciplinary action,” and bar “senior federal officials,” including political appointees, from engaging in censorship in their personal capacities.
These bills come in the wake of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitting that his company censored news articles about the president’s son Hunter after the FBI reached out ahead of the 2020 election.
A handful of Biden’s top federal agencies have also been stepping up efforts to monitor and counteract “disinformation” on social media platforms, even in the face of criticism that the administration is attempting to silence conservative or opposing viewpoints.
As House Republicans work to protect Americans’ First Amendment rights, the Oversight Committee is separately probing the State Department after reports uncovered there was an alleged “blacklist” of conservative news outlets, run by the British Global Disinformation Institute, to which the federal agency had used taxpayer money to pay $330,000.
Despite the Biden administration’s focus on countering disinformation from foreign adversaries attempting to influence U.S. elections and on certain topics, including COVID-19 origins, the deadly Afghanistan withdrawal and other issues, House Republicans remain committed to protecting free speech and preventing censorship by federal government officials.
As Comer stated, “The Biden administration has eroded Americans’ First Amendment rights by bullying social media companies to censor certain views and news on their platforms. It’s time to put an end to this censorship and ensure that all Americans are able to express their views freely without fear of retribution.”