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Glenn Greenwald Shows Congressional Pressure on Social Media To Censor Is Unconstitutional

Feb. 20 , 2021 (EIRNS)—Glenn Greenwald posted an article on his website today, “Congress Escalates Pressure on Tech Giants to Censor More, Threatening the First Amendment,” which demonstrates that the Congressional pressure on the tech giants to censor what the Democrats call “fake news” is an explicit breach of the Constitution. He states that the Democrats in the House are again calling the heads of Twitter, Facebook and Google to testify on March 25, saying in their announcement that self-censorship has failed, and that the social media platforms are still allowing “falsehoods about the COVID-19 vaccine” and “debunked claims of election fraud” to be posted. They argued that “these online platforms have allowed misinformation to spread, intensifying national crises with real-life, grim consequences for public health and safety,” and declaring: “This hearing will continue the Committee’s work of holding online platforms accountable for the growing rise of misinformation and disinformation.”

“Industry self-regulation has failed,” said the announcement by House Energy and Commerce head Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and therefore “we must begin the work of changing incentives driving social media companies to allow and even promote misinformation and disinformation.” Greenwald then adds: “In other words, they intend to use state power to influence and coerce these companies to change which content they do and do not allow to be published.” This then raises another

“often overlooked” issue, he writes, that “while the First Amendment does not apply to voluntary choices made by a private company about what speech to allow or prohibit, it does bar the U.S. government from coercing or threatening such companies to censor. In other words, Congress violates the First Amendment when it attempts to require private companies to impose viewpoint-based speech restrictions which the government itself would be constitutionally barred from imposing.”

Greenwald quotes from a Wall Street Journal article by Yale Law School’s constitutional scholar Jed Rubenfeld: “Using a combination of statutory inducements and regulatory threats, Congress has co-opted Silicon Valley to do through the back door what government cannot directly accomplish under the Constitution.”

Greenwald also quotes case law backing up this argument from the Supreme Court, concluding:

“Little effort is required to see that Democrats, now in control of the Congress and the White House, are engaged in a scheme of speech control virtually indistinguishable from those long held unconstitutional by decades of First Amendment jurisprudence. That Democrats are seeking to use their control of state power to coerce and intimidate private tech companies to censor—and indeed have already succeeded in doing so—is hardly subject to reasonable debate. They are saying explicitly that this is what they are doing.”

He quotes Rep. Pallone’s message, that because “big tech has failed to acknowledge the role they’ve played in fomenting and elevating blatantly false information to its online audiences, we must begin the work of changing incentives driving social media companies to allow and even promote misinformation and disinformation.”

Greenwald also says regarding the demise of Parler:

“In the immediate aftermath of the January 6 Capitol riot, when it was falsely claimed that Parler was the key online venue for the riot’s planning—Facebook, Google’s YouTube and Facebook’s Instagram were all more significant—two of the most prominent Democratic House members, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), used their large social media platforms to insist that Silicon Valley monopolies remove Parler from their app stores and hosting services.... Within 24 hours, all three Silicon Valley companies complied with these ‘requests,’ and took the extraordinary step of effectively removing Parler—at the time the most-downloaded app on the Apple Store—from the internet.”

Similarly with the ouster of Trump from social media after Kamala Harris demanded it.

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