In the United States, speech is protected under the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights within the Constitution. Casual speech, political speech, smart speech, stupid speech, even hate speech, it’s all protected.
Obscenity is not protected. Neither is defamation. Nor is child pornography. Calls for violence are frowned upon. Blackmail is a no-no. Perjury could get you locked up. But protected speech of any kind, the government cannot legally censor it.
Meanwhile, private entities can do whatever they want. In recent years, major social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have been accused of censoring certain viewpoints, particularly those that challenge establishment consensus.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, saying anything that challenged the CDC’s official line about health guidelines could get users restricted or banned. Before the 2020 presidential election, Facebook and Twitter censored a controversial story about first son, Hunter Biden, that social media officials worried might hurt Joe Biden’s chances and improve incumbent Donald Trump’s. Intelligence officials called the story “Russian Disinformation” and the government line became the Twitter and Facebook line as well.
Later, the Washington Post and New York Times verified the story. Former Twitter head Jack Dorsey has admitted it was censorship and apologized, calling it a “total mistake.”
Still, Twitter is privately owned. The platform following the FBI’s (manipulative) guidelines is certainly questionable First Amendment-wise, but there was no clear evidence Twitter was forced to censor. No laws were necessarily broken.
Then we learned the government was actively working with these platforms to censor all the time.
Docs show Facebook and Twitter closely collaborating w/ Dept of Homeland Security, FBI to police “disinfo.” Plans to expand censorship on topics like withdrawal from Afghanistan, origins of COVID, info that undermines trust in financial institutions. https://t.co/Zb3zmI1dQF
— Lee Fang (@lhfang) October 31, 2022
The Intercept’s Lee Fang reported on October 31, “The Department of Homeland Security is quietly broadening its efforts to curb speech it considers dangerous, an investigation by The Intercept has found. Years of internal DHS memos, emails, and documents—obtained via leaks and an ongoing lawsuit, as well as public documents—illustrate an expansive effort by the agency to influence tech platforms.”
“The work, much of which remains unknown to the American public, came into clearer view earlier this year when DHS announced a new ‘Disinformation Governance Board’: a panel designed to police misinformation (false information spread unintentionally), disinformation (false information spread intentionally), and malinformation (factual information shared, typically out of context, with harmful intent) that allegedly threatens U.S. interests.”
Yes, the Biden administration floated their own version of George Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth,” the “Disinformation Governance Board.” Really.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Fang continued, “While the board was widely ridiculed, immediately scaled back, and then shut down within a few months, other initiatives are underway as DHS pivots to monitoring social media now that its original mandate—the war on terror—has been wound down.”
He added (emphasis mine), “Behind closed doors, and through pressure on private platforms, the U.S. government has used its power to try to shape online discourse.”
WTF? This is a major and dangerous violation of the First Amendment.
Are we in China? North Korea?
It was in this almost unbelievable 1984-like environment—unbelievable in a historically free country like the United States—that billionaire Elon Musk became concerned about the dangers of an evermore censorious society, from both government and corporate threats.
Since private entities can do whatever they want, Musk decided to buy Twitter for the purpose of allowing more free speech on it. There would still be content moderation to prevent the type of acts I described earlier that are not protected speech (calls to violence, defamation, child porn, etc.), but other than that, users could express themselves freely and share ideas, opinions, and news. Basic free speech.
Needless to say, for many on the Left this was controversial. This makes exactly zero sense, but we are talking about the American Left here.
Look at this meathead.
Now that Elon Musk is buying Twitter, the question for all of us is: Will he allow a Criminal who used this platform to lie and spread disinformation to try to overthrow the US Government to return and continue his Criminal activity? And if he does, how do we combat it?
— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) April 25, 2022
What the heck is he even talking about?
‘I’m done with Twitter’: Whoopi Goldberg quits ‘messy’ platform over Elon Musk takeover https://t.co/exDwwQVRhZ
— Masterjitips (@masterjitips) November 8, 2022
Téa Leoni, Shonda Rhimes, Alex Winter and Sara Bareilles are among the celebrities leaving Twitter after Elon Musk's takeover. https://t.co/1EuLyXIqjm
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 2, 2022
GTFO! Free speech rules!
But celebrities can celebrity all they want. This week, the Biden administration signaled there might be an investigation into Elon Musk and his Twitter purchase.
That’s right, the federal government poking its beak into his private business.
How DARE Musk allow free speech! The exchange of ideas is a threat to democracy! Or something.
Weaponizing government against citizens who criticize it. Biden regime is the most authoritarian in US History. https://t.co/WEKOrRztcN
— Kelley Paul (@KelleyAshbyPaul) November 10, 2022
Joe Biden just said @elonmusk "is worth being looked at" as a national security threat
A reporter calls him out by asking "HOW?!"
A clueless Joe Biden panics, mumbles, and says, "there's a lot of ways"
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) November 9, 2022
Biden announces Disinformation Governance Board so the federal government can regulate speech. Major poll shows 67% of Democrats are in favor.
Elon Musk buys Twitter and vows to reinstate free speech. Dems denounce and vow to leave Twitter. Biden says he will investigate Musk
— Jack Hunter (@jackhunter74) November 10, 2022
Where’s the alleged wrongdoing justifying this? It’s bad enough that we investigate people without cause now, but having the President label people threats in public? And people are okay with this? https://t.co/jZtP3OCSBY
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) November 10, 2022
This is ass-backward. Those in government responsible for censoring should be investigated and Elon Musk should be applauded for using his money to uphold a deeply democratic and American tradition.
Nope. That’s not the world we live in. The Biden administration wants to censor us in any way it can and if someone else powerful wants to allow free speech, well this administration is going to censor them too.
The next time ANY Democrat warns about right-wing “threats to democracy,” laugh in their face.
If that’s still allowed.