As the Special Counsel John Durham reports on the FBI’s disinformation campaign on Russia and Trump is issued, President Biden pushes forward with his efforts to control speech online. Only one year ago, Biden’s team tried to set up a Disinformation Governance Board. Despite failing, unfortunately it sparked a trend for Biden, with multiple, similar executive offices cropping up unnoticed, like the Foreign Malign Influence Center (FMIC) under the Director of National Intelligence.
Every American should be alarmed by the Biden administration’s pushes on multiple fronts, from the regulatory state to the surveillance regime, to expand its “oversight” of our constitutionally-protected civil liberties. But this effort seems to be less focused on safeguarding Americans and more about exerting control over us.
Any government agency determining the merits of American speech is dangerous. The greatest threat to prosperity is not external—it is a loss of trust among the people in institutions. The danger lies in the potential emergence of a two-tiered justice system – one for the party in power, and one for everyone else.
This two-tiered system is already rearing its head today: if the cause aligns with the Biden administration’s agenda, it seems everything is permissible, from defacing cities to intimidating Supreme Court Justices. The most egregious examples of this administration’s censorial instincts can be seen in the government’s extensive effort to suppress of the Hunter Biden laptop story. The same goes for the Covid-19 lab leak theory, which was initially dismissed as conspiracy but has since been found to have legitimate grounds for investigation.
Instead of allowing the American public to examine information and make up their own minds, the administration has stepped in to bury or shape these stories and many others.
The Biden administration’s assault on our First Amendment rights is un-American. We need a government that respects our rights, values our freedoms and stands firm on our principles.
One solution is in the courts, where the protections of the First Amendment are litigated. When states like California enacted laws to criminalize “inappropriate” speech on websites, my company, NetChoice, brought legal action to block it. We applied the same principles when Texas and Florida tried to force websites to host lawful but awful speech. Our cases centered on protecting the First Amendment rights of all citizens and stopping government control of speech. Our legal victories thus far make clear that the government can’t block our free speech.
Another solution is the free market. When left to its own devices, business competition is a powerful regulator because customers give strong feedback. The principle is simple: if a business does something objectionable, consumers will vote with their feet – just like when New Coke emerged, consumers switched to Pepsi.
Consumers have the power to enforce accountability and to reward or punish businesses based on their actions. The role of the government should be to facilitate this process—not undermine it.
And Congress is another solution. The Protecting Free Speech from Government Interference Act makes clear for government employees that their coercion of social media for political purposes is illegal. Judicial interventions to strike down unconstitutional actions are positive steps, but they are not enough.
Congressional investigations into the potential influence peddling by the White House are a start, but this level of scrutiny must be applied across the entire executive branch. Congress should also invoke the Holman Rule, empowering it to cut the pay of specific federal employees who put their political self-interest above serving the American people.
America’s Founding Fathers envisioned a government that would protect individual rights, not trample on them. They instituted checks and balances to prevent the kind of overreach we are witnessing today. It’s a strategy that stifles innovation, hampers growth and shakes the very foundations of our democracy.
A serious threat to America is not just China, Russia or Iran, but a loss of faith in our institutions. As a former employee of the FTC and the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, I know public service requires public trust. The corruption within our institutions must be stopped, and our commitment to serving the American people above all else must be reaffirmed by our elected officials.
Carl Szabo is Vice President & General Counsel for NetChoice, and a professor of internet law at George Mason University’s 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.