The Twitter Files showed that federal agencies like the FBI have been pressuring various social media companies to censor the views of countless everyday Americans on a wide range of issues. So, any politician worth their salt should be jumping into action to defend our constitutional liberties from this overt First Amendment violation.
Enter Senator Rand Paul.
On Wednesday, the Kentucky Republican, who also serves as the Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), forced a vote on an amendment he introduced that would prevent government entities from pressuring companies to censor Americans on social media platforms and other online outlets.
His amendment was offered on Senate Bill 61, the Combating Cartels on Social Media Act, and would have preserved the free speech rights of citizens as well as platforms and their business owners by prohibiting government agencies from requesting, suggesting, or directing platforms to remove protected speech.
It’s only common sense. Americans are guaranteed free speech between themselves and their government. So if governmental agencies pressure private businesses to censor free speech, who is breaking the law? The government. And in doing so, the actors within it are actually violating the First Amendment rights of two parties: the individual(s) they’re working to censor and the business owner that’s being bullied into acting at the government’s behest.
“Recent unsettling disclosures, including those within the Twitter Files, illustrate how the federal government has leveraged taxpayer-funded resources to collude with social media companies and censor disfavored speech on topics from COVID-19 to U.S. elections. The freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment is one of the bedrock principles of our founding, and Congress must defend this right against government censorship,” said Dr. Paul. “It is against this backdrop that I call up my amendment which would prohibit federal employees from using their official position to censor speech on social media and other outlets.”
It’s hard to think of a valid reason to oppose such an initiative, but you won’t believe the vote count.
The amendment failed by a 2-13 margin in the committee with both Republicans and Democrats voting against it. That’s right: 5 Republicans—Sens. Ron Johnson, Josh Hawley, Mitt Romney, Rick Scott, and James Lankford—voted against prohibiting government-Big Tech censorship collusion. Only one other Republican, Roger Marshall, voted with Senator Paul in favor of the amendment.
That’s a shame.
Republicans talk a big game about opposing Big Tech and opposing censorship. But it seems most are uninterested in taking meaningful action to actually protect free speech. Yet no one can claim to be a supporter of the Constitution (or capitalism for that matter) while sitting by as the government attacks the free speech of private businesses and citizens.
Americans have no ability to do anything about unchecked bureaucrats. We’re dependent on our politicians to step up and preserve our rights when agencies go rogue. Every single one that failed to do so this week should have to answer for it.