Government and Politics
December 8, 2022
Obstruction by Democrats comes despite mounting evidence of unaccountable Big Tech companies allying with the Biden Administration to limit free speech
WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding new revelations concerning Twitter’s past collusion with political figures and government officials to censor speech and sought to pass his Disclose Government Censorship Act, which simply requires the federal government to disclose when it works with Big Tech to censor Americans’ speech, but Senate Democrats blocked the legislation.
Hagerty’s legislation seeks to end the government-directed speech suppression and viewpoint censorship in which the Biden White House has admittedly engaged—actions that would plainly violate the First Amendment if the government itself did it—by requiring basic transparency regarding when Americans’ government is attempting to control what they can say or read. The Act contains appropriate exceptions to protect legitimate law enforcement or national security activity. It also places restrictions on the Washington revolving door between government and Big Tech, which fuels much of this close coordination on censorship.
Yet, Democrats refused to allow passage of this legislation.
Senator Hagerty’s remarks and the debate exchange may be found here. Text of his remarks is below.
Senator Hagerty: Mr. President, in the last week, new details have come to light regarding Twitter’s top executives’ past collusion with political figures to censor speech that they did not want the American people to see. This problem is not limited to Twitter, but this news underscores the problem, and the need for congressional action to protect the rights of the American people. Americans deserve to know when their government and Big Tech platforms are trying to manipulate what they can say or read.
Recently published emails among Twitter executives reveal the extent to which the company worked to prevent Americans from seeing a New York Post news story and this was just weeks before the election. The extent of the suppression was breathtaking. Indeed, the Twitter executives locked the Twitter account of the White House Press Secretary simply for mentioning this story. Again, the Press Secretary simply mentioned a story that was published in an established American newspaper with one of the largest circulations in the country.
Facebook admits that it likewise limited the spread of this story based a general warning from the FBI about propaganda.
Evidence has also emerged that, in 2020, Biden and Democrat campaign officials were going so far as to send lists of tweets for their corporate allies to remove—requests that Twitter granted.
This censorship activity has carried over into the Biden Administration.
In 2021, then-Press-Secretary Jen Psaki stated that the government is “in regular touch with social-media platforms” and “flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread [what she called] ‘disinformation’.”
For example, a Facebook official emailed Surgeon General Vivek Murthy stating: “I know our teams met today to better understand the scope of what the White House expects from us on ‘misinformation’ going forward.” A Facebook employee later told the HHS Department that a number of posts had been deleted.
In addition to regularly flagging posts for Twitter and Facebook to take down, the CDC proposed setting up a monthly “misinformation meeting” with Facebook to censor American speech.
Additional Freedom of Information Act requests and lawsuits have also revealed improper coordination between government agencies and social media companies to restrict speech here in America.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, disclosed that it has communicated with more than 30 federal officials about content moderation on its platform—including senior employees at the FDA, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, and the White House. YouTube, which is owned by Google, disclosed it had such communications with 11 federal officials.
The disturbing truth is that when Biden Administration officials don’t like what Americans are saying, they simply reach out to their allies at unaccountable Big Tech companies to silence it.
Government using its power to coerce censorship of disfavored information is what the Chinese Communist Party or the North Korean regime would do. It is not only fundamentally un-American, but often unconstitutional. Government cannot use Big Tech as a tool to end-run the First Amendment.
The American people deserve to know when their government—which is supposed to work for them—is using Big Tech to censor their speech or manipulate the information they see. I introduced legislation in July 2021 to require this transparency. Yet the Senate has failed to act on it.
The Disclose Government Censorship Act would require that government officials publicly disclose communications with Big Tech regarding actions to restrict speech—actions that would plainly violate the First Amendment if the government itself did it. The Act contains appropriate exceptions to protect legitimate law enforcement or national security activity.
It would also require a cooling-off period to address the revolving door between government and Big Tech. This Washington revolving door fuels politically driven censorship, as evidenced by the fact that the former FBI general counsel who resigned because of the Steele Dossier scandal was then hired by Twitter—and, unbelievably, was at the center of the decision to censor the New York Post story in 2020.
Our nation was founded on the idea that protecting citizens’ speech from government censorship—under the First Amendment—would protect the people’s right to govern themselves by preventing the government from controlling information and ideas.
Americans deserve to know when their government is covertly trying to accomplish what the First Amendment prohibits.
The motion was objected to by Peters, who opposed allowing Americans to see when government is trying to silence them and eliminate improper government efforts to ban speech.
Senator Hagerty: Mr. President, my Democratic colleague is objecting to legislation that simply allows Americans to see when the government is trying to censor them. My colleague states that his objection is largely on procedural grounds and that he has concerns that my bill has not been marked-up in committee.
But the committee to which the bill was referred has had over a year to review my legislation and no progress has been made.
I would ask that my colleague commit to working with me on my legislation to address this important First Amendment issue in the next Congress. This problem is too significant to ignore.
Our government works for the American people. To ensure this continues, the First Amendment prohibits the government from controlling what Americans can say or read.
But now, government is using Big Tech to accomplish such censorship. Without disclosure of such communications, Americans’ free speech rights become a dead letter because there is no way to address improper government efforts to ban speech.
My legislation would preserve these rights by allowing Americans to see when government is trying to silence them. This is a basic element of self-government.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.