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Congress should require the government to disclose its communications with social media companies about user speech
This morning, journalist, author, and activist Michael Shellenberger testified before Congress about government attempts to influence and control social media companies’ content moderation decisions. Shellenberger, one of the journalists associated with “The Twitter Files,” said Congress should act to protect Americans’ First Amendment rights, require government transparency, and rebuild the public’s trust.
FIRE supports legislative efforts that require the government to be fully transparent about its interactions and communications with social media companies regarding content moderation and user speech. From the FBI and other federal agencies flagging lawful speech for removal to politicians calling on Twitter to censor “hate speech” and labeling speech they dislike “misinformation,” “disinformation,” and “malinformation,” we’ve seen plenty of examples of the government using its outsized power to pressure people or companies into doing their bidding. Through these tactics, known as jawboning, the government attempts to have tech companies do what the Constitution prohibits the government from doing directly: silence, suppress, and stifle free speech and expression.
Legislation that guarantees transparency and accountability from Uncle Sam would go a long way toward increasing public trust in both government and social media companies.
Too often, this pressure is applied behind the scenes, without the public’s knowledge. Without greater transparency, abuse will likely continue to happen in the shadows.
It shouldn’t take investigative journalists or high-profile lawsuits for us to get the whole truth about how the government is stifling free expression and even violating the First Amendment rights of ordinary citizens.
Shining a public spotlight on the government’s interactions with tech companies will make the government less likely to pressure those companies to suppress or censor disfavored speech. Legislation that guarantees transparency and accountability from Uncle Sam would go a long way toward increasing public trust in both government and social media companies.
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