House Republicans Pass Bill To Prevent Federal Meddling in Online Speech
The House of Representative last week passed a bill to protect online speech from federal officials. House Republicans drafted the proposal largely in response to reporting that revealed federal employees—often in law enforcement or public-health agencies—have asked social media platforms to moderate users’ legally protected speech.
For instance, in one edition of the “Twitter Files,” a series of reports based on internal Twitter records, journalist Matt Taibbi revealed that the FBI’s correspondence with the platform was “constant and pervasive.” Taibbi found that “there were over 150 emails between the FBI and former Twitter Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth” between January 2020 and November 2022. The FBI, wary of election misinformation, regularly reported even satirical content to Twitter. This sort of coordination between officials and platforms was the norm, not an aberration.
The agency’s conduct would certainly seem to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the First Amendment. The bill passed by House Republicans recognizes this, but has its own major problems.
The bill’s primary fault lies in its definitions. It defines “censorship” as “influencing or coercing…for…the removal or suppression of lawful [online] speech”; “the addition of any disclaimer, information, or other alert to lawful [online] speech”; or “the removal or restriction of access of any person or entity on an interactive computer service generally available to the public.”
This expansive language would seemingly extend past the attempts to influence social-media content moderation outlined in the Twitter Files. “The bill applies to requests that authors remove their own interactive computer service posts, or add corrections to those posts, and not just to requests that the computer services do that to their users’ posts,” Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA, tel
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