Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability filed legislation Thursday to ban federal employees from helping Big Tech companies censor Americans.
Committee Chairman Member James Comer of Kentucky, House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State, and House Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio introduced the “Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act” (H.R. 140). It prohibits Biden Administration appointees and federal bureaucrats from using their authority or influence to promote censorship of speech or pressure social media companies to censor speech.
“The Biden Administration has eroded Americans’ First Amendment rights by bullying social media companies to censor certain views and news on their platforms. From COVID-19 to the Biden family’s suspicious business schemes, Biden Administration officials are quick to label inconvenient facts as disinformation and then pressure social media companies to suppress content on their platforms. This threatens Americans’ First Amendment rights. To protect freedom of speech, our bill stops the federal government from pressuring social media companies to silence Americans expressing views online. I look forward to House leadership bringing this bill up for a vote soon so that we can hold the Biden Administration accountable for attacking Americans’ constitutional rights,” said Rep. Comer.
Under the Biden Administration, federal officials have used their positions, influence, and resources to police and censor ordinary Americans’ speech expressed on social media platforms.
For example, former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki used a July 2021 press briefing to call for Facebook to ban specific accounts from its platform and later in February 2022 called upon Spotify and other major tech platforms to limit what the Administration views as “mis- and dis-information.”
Reports have uncovered concerted government efforts to pressure Twitter and Facebook to go beyond their existing community rules to caveat certain posts and suspend users viewed as spreading misinformation.
Most recently, Twitter has released information revealing government pressure to censor Covid information.
“The actions taken by the Biden administration to pressure Big Tech to censor content online are an attack on our fundamental right to free speech. House Energy and Commerce Republicans have repeatedly condemned the troubling actions carried out by radical progressive administration officials to silence Americans and manipulate the truth. It’s time for this behavior to end. I am pleased to join my colleagues, Reps. Comer and Jordan, once again on this important legislation to protect Americans’ first amendment rights,” said Rep. McRogers.
“The collusion between bureaucrats and Big Tech has gone on for far too long. Government agencies shouldn’t censor the free speech of Americans. The Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act is an important first step toward transparency and accountability for Biden’s bureaucrats and Big Tech,” said Rep. Jordan.
Summary of the Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act:
Prohibition on Federal Employee Censorship: The bill prohibits federal officials from using their official authority, influence, or resources—including contracting, grantmaking, rulemaking, licensing, permitting, investigatory, or enforcement actions—to promote the censorship of lawful speech or advocate that a third party or private entity censor speech.
Penalties for Federal Employees Engaging in Censorship: The bill includes the same established penalties for federal officials who engage in political activities in their official capacity as prohibited under the Hatch Act, including disciplinary actions such as removal, reduction in pay grade, debarment from federal employment, or monetary civil penalties.
Special Prohibitions for High Level Officials: The bill further protects American’s lawful speech by prohibiting “further restricted employees”—senior federal officials whose duties and responsibilities extend beyond normal duty hours or their office—from engaging in censorship in a personal capacity. This includes any employee of the Executive Office of the President and Presidential agency appointees.
Violators could face the same penalties that government employees now face if they violate the Hatch Act, which includes fines, reduction in rank or pay, or firing. Mentioned specifically in the bill are officials at the highest levels, banning them from advocating for censorship.