“We need to protect the freedom of speech at all costs. We have to defend the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, and the whole Bill of Rights,” Justin Amash said at Young Americans for Liberty’s annual national conference on Saturday.
“We need to promote a culture of free speech,” the former Libertarian Congressman said. “So it’s not just about what the First Amendment protects.”
Seemingly referring to major platforms that claim they support free speech, Amash added, “If the social media company says that its philosophy is an open exchange of ideas, then you should press them to hold to that.”
Amash then delved into why it’s important to protect all legally protected speech, even ideas that seem wrong on their face, a historically American principle too many in government, Big Tech, and mainstream journalism seem to have given up on.
“We need to protect the sharing of ideas, even ones that seem clearly wrong. This is another important point,” Amash said. “Too often, people are saying, ‘well we don’t need to protect those ideas because they’re obviously wrong.’”
“But actually, throughout human history, wrong ideas have eventually risen to the top and been proven right,” he added. “So it’s not sensible to say ‘well any ideas that currently aren’t considered mainstream can never be mainstream.’ But that’s what people are saying, we must not protect fairly wrong ideas.”
Amash touched on the importance of Section 230, a liability shield for Big Tech that allows free speech to function online, something many Republicans and Democrats have suggested getting rid of.
“We have to defend Section 230. This one’s a rather controversial one for people,” the former congressman said. “Section 230 is fundamentally about the fact that when you are on the internet, you are liable for what you do. You are not liable for what someone else does. That is an important principle.”
“And that’s fundamentally what Section 230 is about,” Amash continued. “There’s been a lot of effort to mislead people about Section 230, how it works and what it does, but fundamentally that’s what it’s about.”
“‘You are responsible for yourself,’ is a very libertarian principle,” he noted.
In a speech that listed everything from respecting social diversity to recommending that people read Ludwig Von Mises and Fredrick Hayek, Amash also said, “We need to reign in the national security state. Making sure they are not using powers like FISA 702 to collect your data. To collect your information. To search on you without a warrant. They do that all the time now and they don’t care.”
Amash also addressed revelations over the last year in the Twitter Files and Facebook Files that the federal government had been colluding with private social media companies to restrict and censor Americans’ speech.
“Stop state collusion with private actors,” he demanded. “We see all the time now where the government, instead of doing the action themselves in violation of the Constitution, what they say is ‘oh we’ll just hire a private actor to do it for us.’”
“Well, that’s unconstitutional too,” Amash said.
He blasted the government’s logic on this practice.
Amash added. “The fact that you’re using some intermediary does not make it suddenly constitutional.”
“But instead of trying to control the private actors, all we should say, as libertarians, is, we are barring collusion,” he said. “You can’t have the state favor things. The state can’t come to someone or pay for something that they otherwise can’t get.”
“There’s no way for them to force a private actor to give information to you,” Amash added. “I think that’s critically important.”
Justin Amash ended his defense of free speech with a call to decentralize the internet.
“We should support the development of a decentralized internet,” he said. “I think we’re at great risk, as Americans, as citizens of the world, at great risk.”
If the government controls the internet, if it’s not decentralized, I think that’s what we’ll eventually see someday,” Amash said.
“Keep the state out of it,” he finished.