Internet Censorship Must End: Government Cannot Become Big Brother

Government Involvement in Internet Censorship: An Overlooked Problem

By: Emily Porter & Jessica Martin
Real Clear Wire

In 2020, a noticeable discrepancy existed in the way online messages were treated. Conservative voices and messages faced censorship and bans, while progressive voices and messages flowed without restraint. Any opposition to COVID-19 lockdowns or vaccines was swiftly taken down from social media platforms. Similarly, suspicions surrounding the 2020 election were labeled as “misinformation.”

The primary method of censoring internet speech is to classify disfavored messages as dis-, mis-, or mal-information. However, these categories can be just as harmful as malinformation, as they require someone to determine what is true and what is not.

It turns out that the driving force behind this censorship was not simply company policy or leftwing tech employees. The government was complicit in censoring its own citizens. Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s controversial takeover of Twitter revealed documents that proved close collaboration between company personnel and federal officials, resulting in a coordinated effort to ban, de-amplify, or censor Twitter accounts. Evidence also suggests similar collusion with other social media and internet companies.

While most government officials are hardworking and well-intentioned, they are still fallible. Regardless of their motives, they can be misinformed or make decisions driven by self-interest. This is especially true when censoring an interpretation or narrative, rather than a verifiable fact.

The issue of government involvement in coordinating with internet companies has become systemic and normalized. This should concern all Americans, as government censorship of one individual today could lead to censorship of another tomorrow. So, what is the solution?

Congress, the courts, or both should prohibit the government from having a say in content moderation. The First Amendment’s commitment to free expression should also extend to the internet. Clear boundaries must be established to prevent government overreach. The collusion or coercion between government officials and private companies must be addressed, and policy should define who can assess internet content and for what reasons.

Censorship under the guise of preventing “foreign” interference on the internet should stop. Instead, government institutions should present their own information for evaluation by all. Additionally, federal agencies should not misuse their authority to regulate ideas and communication. This misuse of power must be addressed by Congress.

Government funding for private companies engaged in censorship activities, such as the Global Disinformation Index, is inconsistent with the values of the First Amendment and should be prevented.

There must be repercussions for government officials who continue to coordinate with internet companies to suppress speech. Simple reforms are needed to dismantle the censorship regime before it becomes too deeply entrenched. These reforms, if implemented, would go a long way in combatting the modern censorship industrial complex.

Gary Lawkowski, a lawyer with the Dhillon Law Group, and Curtis Schube, the Executive Director for Council to Modernize Governance, both contributed their insights to this article originally published by RealClearPolicy and made available via RealClearWire.

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