Censorship News: Legislative Branch, Executive Branch, and Israel
July 23, 2021 (EIRNS)—“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”—the First Amendment
Apparently Sen. Amy Klobuchar disagrees. On July 22, she submitted the Health Misinformation Act, which would add an exception to the protection websites currently enjoy vis-à-vis user-created content. Her bill would end immunity for websites that promote posts containing “misinformation” on health matters during a public health emergency. How will “misinformation” be defined, and who will decide what may and may not be said? (Keep in mind that unless you have very few accounts you’re following, your Twitter or Facebook feed always includes algorithmically promoted content.)
Klobuchar proposes, explicitly, a “law” that would have the effect of “abridging the freedom of speech,” through legislative means, but the Executive branch isn’t being left out.
The office of D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine confirmed on July 22 that he has subpoenaed Facebook for information to determine whether it is, indeed, reducing vaccine misinformation: “Facebook has said it’s taking action to address the proliferation of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation on its site,” said Racine’s office in a statement. “But then when pressed to show its work, Facebook refused.”
In a parallel case, Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid and Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Gilad Erdan are demanding that U.S. states invoke anti-BDS—boycott, divest, sanctions—legislation against Ben&Jerry’s ice cream. They claim that the ice cream makers’ decision to cease selling their products in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel is “a shameful surrender to anti-Semitism,” and that “They will not treat the State of Israel like this without a response.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis obliged by sending a letter to state administrators asserting that Ben&Jerry’s was violating the law.
Such BDS laws, which effectively criminalize political speech—specifically, speech that supports boycotting, divesting from, or sanctioning Israel—have repeatedly been thrown out as clear violations of the First Amendment, in those cases where they’ve worked their way through the courts. But these anti-BDS laws have helped to pave the way, socially, for a greater acceptance of censorship.