The Republican Party has been developing its strategy for taking back control of Washington after Democrats mopped the floor with them in 2020, a strategy that includes a no-holds-barred push to destroy free speech by taking down “Big Tech” and giving government control of social media. And now the states are lining up to help.
Using Section 230 reform as a kind of 1984-styled doublespeak in their war against the First Amendment, Trump and the Republican Party have labeled Big Tech a “threat to free speech” but then covertly pushed anti-free speech legislation that punishes big tech for their success while simultaneously creating a new “Fairness Doctrine” for the internet.
The Republican demonization of Big Tech and the push for government control of social media has been embraced as key elements in the presidential aspirations of two potential 2024 candidates: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Sen. Josh Hawley.
Governor Ron DeSantis, who is running for reelection as governor in 2022 in a practice run for the 2024 presidential race, decided earlier this month to “destroy free speech to save free speech” when he announced new state legislation designed to crack down on Big Tech for their alleged bias against conservatives.
“What began as a group of upstart technology companies from the west coast, has since transformed into an industry of monopoly communications platforms that monitor, influence, and control the flow of information in our country and among our citizens,” DeSantis said from the Cabinet Meeting Room. He also ranted about how ‘Big Tech’ is becoming more like ‘Big Brother’ with “each passing day.”
I’m thinking DeSantis never read 1984, since Orwell used “Big Brother” to describe a tyrannical big government. But I digress.
Sen. Josh Hawley has become a leader in the Republican Party, and man consider the Missouri Senator a strong “conservative” worthy of the presidency (he received the endorsement of Rush Limbaugh). But Hawley’s presidential aspirations are anything but conservative because his 2024 campaign will be tied to Trumpism (aka Nationalism) and the constitutional ignorance of a large number of Americans.
Hawley began building his anti-Big Tech presidential platform in February 2020 when he proposed a plan that could have come from the desk of Elizabeth Warren because it contains many of the ideas she advocates.
Hawley’s Nationalist/Socialist (seems I’ve heard those two words used together before) proposal called for an “overhaul” of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that strips the agency of its independence and relocates it to the Department of Justice. Specifically, his intention is to create a single director within the DOJ who will have “all authority to go after the so-called “rampant abuses” of Big Tech.
Donald Trump issued an executive order in June 2020 to “reform” Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — an order where the only free speech is government-approved speech — he included new ways for the government to control internet content and spy on internet users. Right on cue, a group of Senate Republicans led by Josh Hawley introduced the Limiting Section 230 Immunity to Good Samaritans Act, a bill that limited Section 230 immunity for social media platforms. The bill was co-sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio, Mike Braun, and Tom Cotton.
Near the end of 2020, Simon and Schuster announced their intention to publish Hawley’s book titled, “The Tyranny of Big Tech.” According to the senator, the Hawley 2024 brochure disguised as a book shows how Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple represents the “gravest threat to American liberty since the monopolies of the Gilded age.”
Following the QAnon-led insurrection of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 — an attack a Kansas City newspaper says he helped incite — Simon and Schuster canceled the project. But it was picked up by Regnery Publishing, a subsidiary of pro-Trump Salem Media Group.
Washington’s plan to
take down Big Tech destroy free speech looks to be getting help as states are lining up to join in the carnage despite, as Santi Ruiz at The Washington Free Beacon warns, the limitations put on them by the Constitution.
State legislatures in Florida, Arizona, and Minnesota are moving to curb the power of social media platforms to kick off users or remove content.
The Minnesota Senate bill was introduced this week and is similar to the Arizona Senate bill. Both would impose fines of up to $75,000 on tech companies that ban users or remove their content for certain reasons—a move welcomed by conservative voters concerned about censorship on major platforms. Similar legislation in Mississippi died in committee in early February.
But state legislators are having trouble writing legislation that satisfies both grassroots pressure and constitutional requirements. Multiple experts say that the bills as written fly in the face of protections for the speech of private companies. Additionally, the experts say the bills likely run afoul of constitutional clauses that stop states from going against federal law.
The bills largely follow the same template. They all explicitly target large social media platforms and forbid platforms from removing speech that is not obscene and does not directly threaten violence. The Mississippi and Arizona bills both include a section that would bar social media websites from pointing to “alleged hate speech” by users on their platform as a legal justification for banning those users. Social media platforms currently have freedom to choose how they moderate content on their sites.
The bills have several constitutional problems, experts say. “These proposals almost certainly violate the First Amendment, as there are strong legal precedents that the government cannot force private parties to carry certain speech,” said Jennifer Huddleston of the American Action Forum.
There are those who believe the Constitution prohibits the federal government from interfering with social media, but the Tenth Amendment allows the states to do so. From Tenth Amendment Center:
In legal terms, the Tenth Amendment is what is known as a “rule of construction.” It doesn’t add anything to the Constitution, nor does it take anything away. But it serves a very important function. It tells us how to interpret the document. Think of it like a lens through which we evaluate everything the federal government does.
The Tenth Amendment makes explicit two fundamental constitutional principles that are implicit in the document itself.
- The federal government is only authorized to exercise those powers delegated to it.
- The people of the several states retain the authority to exercise any power that is not delegated to the federal government as long as the Constitution doesn’t expressly prohibit it.
We have relinquished too much power to Washington politicians, and we need to do whatever is necessary to get rid of the duopoly and replace them with people who will “protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.” But we also need to do more on the local and state levels of government because that’s where our ultimate power lies.
If we fail to act locally, liberty will be destroyed nationally.
David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.