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Bruce Bialosky

Simple Solution in Government Intrusion Case

Ronald Reagan once said, “they say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong.” We have exactly that — a simple solution to the government’s intrusion into communication with social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Google, Instagram etc.

As I am sure you are aware there was an earthquake on July 4th. In an order filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Federal Judge Terry Doughty put a halt to the federal government and the Biden Administration from communicating with social media companies to restrict commentary on the platforms.

The ruling by Doughty is a tour de force on free speech and the first amendment. The 155 pages are a history lesson and should be taught in every high school as the defense of our most essential freedom, one that many people in countries with which we are allied do not enjoy.
Doughty mentions eight different areas where the government could still assert itself. They break down into three categories:

1. Criminal activities – Everyone would argue (except criminals) that the social media sites should work with governmental entities to address any criminal activities on their sites.

2. National Security Issues – Not too many people would argue that if nefarious parties are using the sites to communicate about matters that involve actual national security issues (like what happened on 9/11), the social media sites should not work with the FBI and CIA.

3. Misinformation.

If there is largely consensus about the first two points, we must focus on the third point. This is the heart of the matter that needs to be addressed. The judge cites as one of his points that the government should, “Inform social-media companies of postings intending to mislead voters about voting requirements and procedures.” This gets to where there is a solution.

If the government believes there is misinformation about voting they should point it out in their own postings. The media companies may even direct their members to these postings. The government should not be working behind the scenes with media companies to ban people who post “incorrect” information. This leads to the proverbial “slippery slope.”

The government is nefariously communicating with media companies and “suggesting” certain information be banned. This information does not fall into the first two categories. It falls into the area of “misinformation” which is just a code word for speech restriction and violation of the first amendment. When the President’s people call you up and say, “We don’t think Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff, co-authors of the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD), should be allowed to post their thoughts about COVID on your site,” how many people are going to resist that pressure? Not many. It is not a suggestion — it is a demand.

It just so happens that these two gentlemen were correct. The facemasks were a fraud, natural immunity was more effective than the COVID shots, and the disease did come from the lab in Wuhan. But these issues are just “canaries in the coal mine.”

The solution is simple. There are matters in the first two categories with which the government and social media companies can work. Other than that, it is hands off. They can post what they believe to be the truth and others can post what they believe to be the truth. Absolutely no communication between government workers from any department with the staff of any media companies.

The essence of the First Amendment is that Americans need to be treated as grownups and make their own decisions. Government wonks can take their best shot with information and private people can do the same. And, certainly, no more lies that the government is only making “suggestions.”

Here is a possible resolution to this matter. As you know, Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act has allowed these social media operators to control their own methods of “moderation” of their content. It is badly outdated as few anticipated the explosion of the internet or the effects of social media. The Democrats refuse to consider updating the act because currently the suppression of speech has principally been against Republicans and their allies.

Let’s say this gets to the U.S. Supreme Court, and they rule against the government and their secret communications suppressing free speech. We will see the Democrats do a 180 degree turn on the issue of revising Section 230. Their instinctive policy nature is to control matters at the federal level through governmental mandate. In this instance, however, getting all the advantages from using the federal government to coerce social media without revising the law has prompted them to keep their hands off legislation to treat social media like legacy media. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of freedom of speech, you will see them calling for regulation of these social media sites faster than you can blink.

The Democrats are playing a dangerous game by using governmental entities to do their dirty work suppressing free speech. It can bring one of two results. It can boomerang against them, or it can cause a revolt. Neither action would be acceptable. This should skip to the final and proper step and regulate the social media companies like other media companies and thus protect free speech and the First Amendment.