SZABO: ‘It’s A Trap!’: Don’t Let Biden Use His Twitter Misdeeds To Justify Stifling Free Speech

[Twitter Screenshot Greg Price]

Carl Szabo NetChoice
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Last week, President Biden announced his latest plans to seize more control of the internet for the government, but if we’re not paying attention, he might not have to. We might just give it to him. In his op-ed, Biden calls on Republicans to join up for a fight against American tech companies by enacting new laws. But giving more power to the government will only lead to increased government influence over free speech and censorship of conservative voices.

The piece dubs this as an “opportunity for bipartisanship.” Biden lays out his plans for increasing regulation through an expansion of antitrust laws that can be used to limit the growth of American technology businesses. He also calls for a “fundamental reform” of Section 230 and using the state as a parental authority for our kids online. At first blush, many Republicans may think this sounds like a great idea, but as Admiral Ackbar famously said, “it’s a trap!”

More government control over what we can view and say online seems to be what Democrats desire. Biden calls for more antitrust laws to stop the growth of big tech. Some Republicans may like this idea, and some have even introduced legislation to enact it, but this power will only lead to more suppression and silencing. When tech businesses are given the Faustian choice of acquiescing to government removal demands or facing the wrath of regulators who have the power to shut them down by force, they are much more likely to do what the government asks.

Or consider Biden’s waiving of Section 230 reform at Republicans. Like a bull charging, some Republicans may take the bait without realizing the harms caused to conservative speech. And, led by frustrations over content moderation decisions, some Republicans already expressed support for the very legislation President Biden is calling for – more antitrust powers and the removal of Section 230. 

But here’s yet again the trap – Section 230 is what empowers websites to host alternative speech and ideas. Websites wouldn’t host discussions of reopening schools if they could be sued by teachers’ unions, and they certainly wouldn’t host discussions questioning the origins of COVID if they could be sued by trial attorneys. Republicans can be certain that Biden’s changes to Section 230 would harm any questioning of the government or mainstream ideology. 

This shouldn’t be surprising as the Biden administration already engaged in coercing social media to remove content they didn’t like. Let’s not forget that last spring, the Department of Homeland Security announced its Orwellian “Disinformation Governance Board.” Following the incredible public blow-back, DHS shuttered that project and later rebranded it as a new hate speech police program, which, among other things, included treating parents like threats to society. 

And the Twitter Files continue to reveal how the FBI and DHS used the guise of “disinformation” to suppress stories Democrats didn’t like. The government’s justification for working to silence the Hunter Biden story: “foreign disinformation.” The government’s justification for suppressing questions about COVID-19: “public safety.” 

I’ve worked for both the US Federal Trade Commission and the US Office of Government Ethics. A core value at both was that public service is a public trust, that we work for all Americans, and we swear to protect and defend the Constitution which includes the freedom of speech. But the belief by some in our government that asking tough questions or allowing different voices to speak is a national security issue is alarming. Governing this way — by any party or politician — is a recipe for disaster to America, and that perception may lead to heightened distrust in government and the downfall of American principles. 

What Americans need is more government accountability, not more government power. 

Fortunately, Republicans now hold the gavel in the House and can begin investigating these problems. They can uncover and expose the rot in federal agencies that allowed these actions to occur, and they can remove or reform the problem. 

Here’s hoping that House Republicans can reignite the spirit of asking tough questions without the fear of being silenced, rather than falling for Biden’s latest trap.

Carl Szabo is Vice President and General Counsel for NetChoice, and a professor of internet law at the George Mason Antonin Scalia Law School. 

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.