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Don’t move backward on free speech

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The more documents that Big Tech companies are forced to cough up through litigation and oversight, the clearer it becomes that there was in fact a coordinated campaign between social media platforms and the government to suppress speech that is inconvenient for those in power.

This censorship runs counter to our nation’s founding principles. Congress and litigants should keep up the pressure on social media companies to reveal what they did, and safeguards need to be put in place to make sure this never happens again.

The latest revelations of Big Tech-government collusion come from the House Judiciary Committee, where Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) had to schedule a vote to hold Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in contempt of Congress before Meta finally agreed to meet the committee’s document request. When Meta finally produced the documents, Jordan called off the contempt vote.

Jordan released exactly what he expected to find from Meta: Evidence that Facebook and Instagram suppressed the content of users that the White House had deemed inappropriate.

One April 2021 email from an anonymous Facebook employee to Zuckerberg and former Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg complained of “continued pressure from external stakeholders, including the White House and the press” to suppress unwanted content. In one case, Facebook bragged that it had reduced the reach of a specific Tucker Carlson video on its platform by 50%.

“These documents, and others that were just produced to the committee, prove that the Biden administration abused its powers to coerce Facebook into censoring Americans, preventing free and open discourse on issues of critical public importance,” Jordan said in a statement.

While Jordan should continue his investigation, legislation introduced in the Senate last week would essentially legalize the exact suppression of speech Jordan is trying to bring to light. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) unveiled the Digital Consumer Protection Commission Act, a bill that they claim will “rein in Big Tech” by creating a government commission to crack down on “disinformation.”

With this commission in place, a future White House wouldn’t need to send emails directly to the CEOs of Big Tech companies asking to take offensive content down. The Digital Consumer Protection Commission could just do it for them. Warren and Graham claim this commission would be “bipartisan,” but ultimately any commission would be made up of commissioners appointed by a president and those commissioners would have the same partisan bias as the president who appointed them. There simply is no way to create a safe and truly non-partisan speech police.

Between Jordan’s investigation, Elon Musk’s Twitter Files, and the ongoing litigation in federal court in which Louisiana and Missouri have secured an injunction forbidding government officials from coordinating with Big Tech, free speech is much safer now than it was in 2020. Now is not the time to move in the opposite direction with the Digital Consumer Protection Commission Act.





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