Congressional Democrats Launch Full-On Facebook-Targeted Attack on First Amendment
Democratic members of Congress have sent Meta, Facebook’s parent company, a heavy-handed letter “urging” Meta to publish what the Dems want published and ban what they want banned. The letter, signed by Adam Schiff, Sheldon Whitehouse, André Carson, and Kathy Castor has no date on it, but it’s almost certainly a reaction to Twitter’s new openness.
Within the letter they call it “part of our ongoing oversight efforts,” by which they’re specifically trying to contain and control “misinformation.” Sure. That’s how I remember it, don’t you? The Constitution explicitly makes Congress responsible to ensure the public only reads the truth. Specifically “truth” that favors the party in power. “Truth” that makes it impossible for the other party to speak.
Doesn’t familiar, you say? Doesn’t sound quite like the way you recall the way the First Amendment reads? Exactly. Jonathan Turley calls it, quite rightly, a “not-so-subtle threat” of congressional action if Meta follows Twitter’s lead.
Folks, This is Not Confusing
Social media platforms have long posed a challenge with respect to free speech laws. As private companies, they’re not subject to First Amendment restrictions. They have become the public square on which free speech depends, however, so they have a vital role in either allowing or preventing First Amendment freedoms from being realistically attainable. Their relationship to the First Amendment is unprecedented and open to debate.
Not so the Congress. There’s nothing new or difficult here. The Constitution tells Congress in no uncertain terms to keep its dirty, biased, powerful paws off the press.
These four Democratic members of Congress are publicly telling Meta to:
- “Continue the suspension of former president Donald Trump’s Facebook account beyond January”
- “Carefully monitor and counter the spread of harmful election misinformation, including the Big Lie about the 2020 presidential election.”
- “Commit to strong election misinformation policies year-round … as we are still witnessing falsehoods about voting and the prior elections spreading on your platform.”
- “Improve its oversight and enforcement” on other major leaders speaking out on election matters.
And more, naturally.
Pushing Their Partisan Weight Around
The letter requests “answers” and “a briefing to discuss other areas of oversight.” It’s all perfectly innocent and above-board, as long as they’re asking purely to satisfy some sense of personal curiosity, not intending to use their legislative powers to pressure Facebook in any way.
I hope you laughed when you read that.
No, these members of Congress are using their powers of elected office to pressure a media outlet into silencing their political opponents. They even had the gall to frame it in terms of “election integrity” — as if controlling the press has no effect on free elections?
Abrogating Their Oath of Office
Meta has a cozy enough relationship with the Democrats as it is: Founder Mark Zuckerberg reportedly gave them close to half a billion dollars for the 2020 election, much of it cloaked in “Get out the vote” campaigns, but almost exclusively in Democrat-friendly demographics. (Side note: Remember that next time you hear anyone saying Democrats are the party of the little people. Not many “little people” have half a billion dollars lying around that way.)
The FBI treated Twitter as a virtual subsidiary. That was an unconscionable abuse of power. It’s even worse when members of Congress push their weight around on the press. The First Amendment doesn’t mention the FBI the way it very specifically mentions Congress. These Democrats not only abused their power, they abrogated their oath of office. They have no business holding power as they do. They have no business being in Congress.
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the highly acclaimed Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.