Republicans are attempting to curtail the powers of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after it purportedly engaged in substantial social media censorship.
The DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) likely violated the First Amendment by telling social media platforms how to moderate content, a Fifth Circuit federal appeals court recently found. Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security Committee are pushing legislation to address CISA’s ability to collaborate with tech companies to censor content, introducing bills to mandate transparency and accountability regarding CISA’s activities.
“CISA has blatantly violated the First Amendment and colluded with big tech to censor the speech of ordinary Americans,” Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Federal courts have ordered CISA to stop, but the trust CISA has abused cannot be restored until the agency gives a full accounting of what it has done, and Congress changes the law to create severe penalties for anyone who tries to do the same thing in the future.”
“The Free Speech Protection Act, which I introduced in July, would not only require CISA to come clean about its actions that violated the First Amendment, but also establish the penalties that will prevent government censorship in the future,” Paul told the DCNF.
The bill blocks all government employees from influencing censorship and levies severe penalties against them. It also prohibits government grants related to “misinformation or disinformation” and mandates reporting of government censorship requests of protected speech.
The Free Speech Protection Act specifically requires the DHS secretary to release a report of all past CISA censorship occurring between Nov. 16, 2018, and the date of enactment.
Over 100 House Republicans attempted to cut CISA’s budget by 25% at the end of September, according to Politico.
“Remember, this corruption occurred in both CISA and DHS under the Trump administration — once again proving how pervasive the partisan leftist infiltration of federal government agencies truly is,” Republican Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson told the DCNF. “The first step is exposing the corruption and then passing legislation prohibiting and penalizing these actions in the future.”
Johnson was involved in reintroducing the Disclose Government Censorship Act in May, which requires government officials and employees to publish their communications with social media companies regarding suppressing content visibility within one week, according to its text.
“The government should never play a role in censoring Americans’ free speech—and when the Biden administration inevitably does, Americans deserve to know with full transparency and accountability,” Scott’s communications director McKinley Lewis told the DCNF. “Senator Rick Scott has fought hard to prevent this type of censorship and is fighting to pass the PRESERVE Online Speech Act to combat censorship coordination between big tech companies and governments.”
The bill would force social media firms to report all instances of government content moderation requests and impose a $50,000 per day penalty on companies that do not comply, according to its text. The funds raised from the fines would then be distributed to the Federal Communications Commission to provide access to broadband internet in rural areas.
CISA formed a Cybersecurity Advisory Committee’s Protecting Critical Infrastructure from Misinformation and Disinformation subcommittee in December 2021 to provide the agency with recommendations to address misinformation, disinformation and malinformation in preparation for the 2022 midterm elections. However, internal meeting records, emails and notes obtained by the DCNF through a public records request reveal committee members often pressed to enlist external left-wing groups and individuals linked to Democratic initiatives to further their objectives.
The Supreme Court of the United States recently ruled to reverse an injunction that temporarily prevented President Joe Biden’s administration from working with social media platforms to restrict content while it conducts a review of the Missouri v. Biden free speech case. The case may not conclude until spring 2024, Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion, dissenting from the decision to stay the injunction.
“A majority of the Court, without undertaking a full review of the record and without dissenting any explanation, suspends the effect of that injunction until the Court completes its review of this case, an event that may not occur until late in the spring of next year,” Alito wrote. “Government censorship of private speech is antithetical to our democratic form of government, and therefore today’s decision is highly disturbing.”
CISA and the DHS did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
Jason Cohen on October 29, 2023