Sparks flew on Thursday at the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government hearing. Republican committee members and their witnesses described a harrowing Biden administration campaign to repress the free speech of Americans. The members also cemented the GOP as the political party dedicated to the support of free speech. Democrat members of the committee meanwhile argued that it’s good for the government to seek censorship of some stories.
FBI Deliberately Planted False Information
The 30-member subcommittee first heard from the Republicans who filed Missouri v. Biden, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Senator Eric Schmitt, who was attorney general of Missouri before January. The case sues the Biden administration and its leaders for violating the First Amendment rights of the people in Missouri and Louisiana. The AGs have used that lawsuit and the discovery process to depose an FBI agent about the Hunter Biden laptop, discovering that the “FBI deliberately planted false information … in order to deceive social media platforms into censoring the Hunter Biden laptop story.”
Senator Schmitt testified that the attorneys “obtained documents revealing that multiple federal agencies, including the FBI, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Census Bureau, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency in the Department of Homeland Security, and the Global Engagement Center in the State Department have pressured and colluded with social media companies to flag and censor large numbers of accounts and posts, especially relating to public health and elections.”
Matthew Seligman of Stanford’s Constitutional Law Center testified for the Democrats. He argued that no First Amendment violations seem present. “[C]ontent moderation decisions ultimately rest with social media platforms and the officials’ communications were simply suggestions,” and “[n]o governmental official ever even hinted that social media platforms would be subject to any enforcement action.” So, without a red-hot smoking gun, there’s no problem. “Social media platforms face an immense challenge in attempting to maintain their platforms as robust forums of Americans’ discourse on matters of public concern, uncorrupted by … misinformation… ” he testified. Putting aside the notion that any speech platform could offer near-universal access and be falsehood free, who gets to decide what matters concern the public and what is misinformation?
Censorship Industrial Complex
John Sauer is a conservative star lawyer, and it’s easy to see why. The former clerk of Justice Antonin Scalia worked for both attorneys general on the case against the Biden administration. Wyoming Republican Harriet Hageman asked Mr. Sauer to speak directly to the American people. Asking what takeaways he viewed as “paramount,” to the committee’s efforts “to hold this administration, and these corrupt government hacks accountable for their blatant violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution.” Sauer’s reply was a sobering reminder that the Biden administration’s attacks on speech are not simply a matter of the past, but are active, ongoing, looming, and increasing. He said:
“Federal censorship activities are not in retreat; they are expanding. Federal executive officials are expanding the topics on which they seek censorship; it’s expanding to more and more agencies, and it’s expanding to any social media platform they can reach to. So we are not in a situation where this is something that occurred in the past. We have overwhelming evidence that it’s growing and growing and growing. And there’s little indication there will ever be any voluntary relinquishment of the power to dictate what ordinary Americans can say on social media.”
Hageman called the testimony “stunning” in exposing the Surveillance Industrial Complex, the Censorship Industrial Complex, and the Corruption Industrial Complex. “Take your pick,” she said. The court case against the Biden administration is delayed over procedural challenges, as the plaintiffs work for more discovery, including, for instance, depositions of key administration officials like Jen Psaki. Terry A. Doughty, a Trump appointee, is the judge in that case.
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