Nah, Democrats In Congress Aren’t Trying To Circumvent the First Amendment By Pressuring Private Entities To Censor Political Speech They Don’t Like…What Would Ever Give You That Idea?

This week, three Democratic members of the House, Adam Schiff, André Carson, Kathy Castor, and Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, sent a letter on Congressional stationery to Meta’s President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg, urging, pushing and pressuring his company (Meta is the re-branded Facebook parent) to continue to block former President Donald Trump from communicating his opinions, positions and thoughts. The entire letter’s text is below.

It is a smoking gun. Sure, the letter isn’t exactly official, and yes, the four Democrats do not say they speak for Congress as a whole, and yes, it isn’t technically a First Amendment violation, because there is no law involved, and the signers of the letter have no immediate power to make Meta do anything. The letter however, carries an intrinsic veiled threat, and its message is clear: “We can’t censor Trump, so we want you do do it for us.” That is a disgusting violation of the spirit and intent of the First Amendment, making it shockingly clear once again how little respect this corrupted party has for basic individual rights, and how far it is tilting in the direction of totalitarianism. I’m anticipating the sound of a large BOOM emanating from downtown D.C. when Professor Turley reads the letter; presumably he will find it as disturbing as I do. Imagine a similar letter to a major network urging it not to cover the speeches of a prominent critic of Democratic policies, and to ban him from being interviewed as well. I see no substantive difference.

(Just to be clear: “election denial” is protected speech, and Democrats have engaged in it frequently and freely for 20 years.)

The letter follows…It is addressed to Nicholas Clegg President, Global Affairs Meta,1 Hacker WayMenlo Park, California, and begins, ” To Mr. Clegg”:

***

“Following the 2022 midterm elections, we write to urge Meta to maintain its commitment to keeping dangerous and unfounded election denial content off its platform. To that end, we also urge Meta and its leadership to continue the suspension of former president Donald Trump’s Facebook account beyond January, and to carefully monitor and counter the spread of harmful election misinformation, including the Big Lie about the 2020 presidential election, on Facebook

“After each election cycle, social media platforms like Meta often alter or rollback certain misinformation policies, because they are temporary and specific to the election season. Doing so in this current environment, in which election disinformation continuously erodes trust in the integrity of the voting process, would be a tragic mistake. Meta must commit to strong election misinformation policies year- round, as we are still witnessing falsehoods about voting and the prior elections spreading on your platform.

“Meta has previously taken concrete actions to fight falsehoods and misinformation regarding elections, such as Facebook’s adding labels on election-related posts promoting reliable information in 2020 and 2021, which was an important step in countering the proliferation of election misinformation on the platform. We also supported Meta’s decision to suspend the Facebook account of former president Trump for, “maintaining an unfounded narrative of electoral fraud and persistent calls to action” therefore creating “an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible” according to the Facebook Oversight Board.1 That risk persists, and certainly has not diminished since the former president’s removal.

“For Meta to credibly maintain a legitimate election integrity policy, it is essential that your company maintain its platform ban on former president Trump. We understand that the initial suspension of his account expires in January, and that Meta will then make a decision regarding the future of his account. When initially suspending the account, Facebook’s statement said, “If we determine that there is still a serious risk to public safety, we will extend the restriction for a set period of time and continue to re-evaluate until that risk has receded.”2 Two years later, we can see unequivocally that Trump is still spreading the Big Lie and thus undermining our democracy. Indeed, he has expressed support for pardoning people involved in the January 6th attack on police, should he ever get the chance.

“Trump has continued to post harmful election content on Truth Social that would likely violate Facebook’s policies, and we have every reason to believe he would bring similar conspiratorial rhetoric back to Facebook, if given the chance. On Election Day this year, Trump perpetrated false election narratives, including unfounded claims that, “The Absentee Ballot situation in Detroit is REALLY BAD…Protest, Protest, Protest!”3 Similarly, he posted that, “Maricopa County in Arizona looks like a complete Voter Integrity DISASTER. Likewise Detroit (of course!), Pennsylvania, and other places. Not being covered by Fake News Media!”4 A later post claimed, “Arizona even said ‘by the end of the week!’ They want more time to cheat! Kari Lake MUST win!”5

“Based on Meta’s own statement on standards for allowing Trump back on the platform, his account should continue to be restricted. According to a Media Matters’ report, Trump has “amplified at least 61 QAnon accounts more than 130 times” on Truth Social.6 These posts would explicitly violate Facebook’s policy banning QAnon, which took effect in 2020.7 Trump has also incited violence on Truth Social in many instances. For example, he claimed in one post that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell “has a DEATH WISH.”8 His rhetoric can only serve as a motivation to incite violence, and it is Meta’s responsibility to keep such rhetoric off its platforms.

“Furthermore, this rhetoric extends beyond just the former president to other high-profile individuals. We saw in the 2022 midterm elections that candidates who posted the same falsehoods about disproven electoral fraud in the 2020 election and expected fraud in 2022 elections were allowed to spread the Big Lie on Facebook. Unlike other major social media platforms, Meta’s policies do not prohibit posts that make unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud. A review by the Washington Post found 18 candidates denying the 2020 election results and 17 candidates claiming the 2022 elections will be rigged or corrupt posted on Facebook, with none of these posts on Facebook being labeled or challenged.9 This is highly troubling, and an area where Meta must improve its oversight and enforcement.

“Not only have election denial claims remained untouched on Facebook, but recent reports found that election denial posts gained more engagement on the platform. A recent review by Bloomberg News that analyzed the Facebook posts of every Republican running for Senate, Congress, governor, attorney general or secretary of state this year, found “Candidates who have pushed the falsehood that the 2020 election was stolen routinely saw their posts collecting more engagement overall compared to the performance of each candidate’s average post.”10 With the ability and motivation to spread election lies, these posts are proliferating on Facebook and reaching a large audience. According to CrowdTangle, the media analysis tool owned by Meta, Election denial posts reached as many as 120.4 million people in the past year.11

“Given the continued election denial rhetoric, we urge Meta to recommit to focusing on election integrity year-round, while keeping Congress fully informed about its efforts. We believe that part of the commitment to election integrity should be ensuring that those who maintain the unfounded, dangerous narrative of the 2020 election are not allowed or encouraged to spread the lie to foster engagement on Facebook.

“As part of our ongoing oversight efforts, we request answers to the following questions, as well as a briefing to discuss other areas of oversight:

  • After seeing election misinformation spread on Facebook regarding the 2022 elections this year, what changes will Meta make to its election integrity policies to ensure that misinformation about elections does not continue to spread?
  • With the rise of candidates spreading election denial — both past and present — will Meta commit to monitoring and consider suspending dangerous, unfounded posts, regardless of who posts the content?
  • Will Meta commit to keeping their election infrastructure in place year-round? What changes will be made to increase its capacity to monitor and provide truthful context to its users?
  • Have the recent layoffs at Meta decreased the number of employees working on the misinformation, election integrity or foreign malign influence teams?
  • What criteria will Meta consider when reviewing the ongoing suspension of Donald Trump’s accounts? Will Meta request any assurances from the candidate?
  • Will Meta analyze the posts of Trump on Truth Social and other statements he has made when making a decision on his suspended account?

“Thank you for your attention to this matter and ensuring your ongoing commitment to ensuring election integrity in the United States. If you would like to discuss this, please contact us at (202) 225-4176.”

30 thoughts on “Nah, Democrats In Congress Aren’t Trying To Circumvent the First Amendment By Pressuring Private Entities To Censor Political Speech They Don’t Like…What Would Ever Give You That Idea?

  1. So they’re trying to prevent people from seeing public expressions of skepticism regarding the election, because they don’t trust their account of events to stand up to that skepticism in people’s minds.

    And they’re trying to prevent people from seeing alternative hypotheses about what happened, because they don’t think their own supply of skepticism can refute those hypotheses or at least lower the stakes that hinge on whether or not they’re true.

    The only ethical course of action is to make sure people are using skepticism in a disciplined manner, and then see where that skepticism leads. We can do that by equipping people to reflect on what they read, explore various hypotheses, evaluate them rationally, and take ethical actions in response.

    I have limited sympathy for people who give up on spreading the skill of skepticism and try to replace it with dogma for “people’s own good”, and no sympathy at all for people who censor skepticism because it threatens the deception that maintains their power. Granted, the latter may deceive themselves into believing they are the former. Without a decent sense of skepticism tied to their self-awareness, it’s hard for them to tell the difference.

    • Nicely stated EC.

      I’d add one thing; using skepticism in a disciplined manner requires the use of critical thinking and modern day propaganda has brainwashed far too many people into completely ignoring common sense, critical thinking, logic & liberty in favor of pure hive-minded dogma – it’s very cultish.

  2. “…it isn’t technically a First Amendment violation, because there is no law involved…”
    Help me out here, Jack, since I’m not a lawyer. I thought the concept of the restriction of 1A had been expanded through the courts over the years to the point where any violation by a government representative was prohibited, whether there was a specific law involved or not. Isn’t this what enables pushback against the likes of administrators at state colleges trying to limit student expression, and other such situations?

    • You’ve stated the principle correctly. My statement was imprecise. The Court held that a “law” is sufficiently involved when the government through legislation or other means funds an entity that proceeds to use that government agency to infringe on free speech…government action, government-supported action all have sufficient nexus to “law.”

  3. I suggest we all call the number listed and register our disgust with the letter. One could argue that this is evidence that the signers are deliberately abrogating their oath of office which could be an impeachable offense

  4. Free speech is a core foundation of the USA, if people don’t like what someone else is saying then don’t listen but trying to silence the speech of those you oppose is pure totalitarianism and anti-American.

    They actually used official Congressional stationery for this letter? Well now, they can rationalize all they want but putting it on official Congressional stationery was to give it a veiled “Congressional order” feeling and that was wrong. What Adam Schiff, André Carson, Kathy Castor, and Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse did was certainly extra-legal or a bastardization of legality or maybe even actually illegal, it certainly was ETHICALLY WRONG in every sense of the phrase and they should be expelled from Congress or at the very least formally censured.

    When is the public going to stop putting up with this crap from obvious totalitarians.

  5. Sigh.

    Of course, Andre Carson is one of the signers. This guy gets re-elected every single time here in Indianapolis. He’s a legacy candidate because he’s the grandson of perennial Congresswoman Julia Carson – the first African-American female to be elected from Indiana to Congress. You remember her, surely. She’s one of the fools who wanted the UN to come in to monitor our elections after the 2000 fiasco.

    • I hate political families that become little mini-potentate producers. It’s such a third world thing. It’s just creepy. We have Raul Grijalva here in Southern Arizona. The ranch headquarters where he was born, or descended from heaven, I’m not sure which, has been preserved with massive amounts of federal funds and his daughter is working her way into various electoral positions.

      • That happens in Texas, too, I am sad to say. A local Harris County justice of the peace (the first or lowest level of courts in Texas, which handles traffic tickets, school truancy issues, evictions, and small claims) retired after a number of incompetent years on the bench. Well, as luck would have it, he retired before the end of his term and decided to appoint . . . erm . . . suggest . . . his lovely daughter for the position because, she understands issues important to the Hispanic community in that precinct. See, it had nothing to do with her competence or qualifications, or, I don’t know – the electoral process. Nope, she simply carried on with the important work her dedicated civil servant father began lo those many years ago which resulted in a street naming and other public accolades. Yep. She has turned out to be an unbearably incompetent, corrupt and useless judge, even though she supposedly attended and graduated from law school, and took and passed the bar and is licensed to practice in Texas.

  6. It’s unethical, immoral and anti-American actions by Democrats, just like this one that will push the fence sitters in the political right straight into the open arms of that unethical loose cannon mouthed hack Donald Trump and support his 2024 Presidential run, if for no other reason but to stick it to the anti-American “progressive” (that’s an oxymoron) Democrats.

    What is it with 21st century Democrats?

    It seems to me that they have a really bad tendency to choose popularity of some sort over morality way too often. They’re choosing the popularity of consequence free sex and abortion over the basic human right to life, choosing to release a piece of shit war monger into the world to release a popular LGBT black female sports player, choosing the popular but immoral suppression of free speech they don’t like over moral and truthful debate, choosing the popular hate of police over the basic safety of citizens, choosing the growing popularity of ignoring crimes over punishing real criminals, choosing to use pure innuendo filled and false propaganda instead of actual truth, etc., etc. The same thing can be said of progressives choosing hive-mindedness over morality.

    It seems to me that progressives have stuffed morality down in an abyss of being considered a quaint anecdote of history, never again to be utilized by them. The Democratic Party appears to be on the verge of, or already past the threshold of, complete morally bankruptcy.

    The way totalitarianism has got its grip on so many people in the political left I wonder why some choose to chastise me because my hope for the USA is failing, just because my hope is failing doesn’t mean I’m a defeatist and I’ve given up.

  7. I have always believed the 1st amendment not only prevented the government from suppressing free speech but made it incumbent upon them to prevent other entities from doing the same. Otherwise it would be easy for the government to enlist other to do what they overtly cannot. And this is exactly what’s happening.

    • Quite sure all signatories and Meta themselves if they perform any actions other than rejecting the letter are violating 18 U.S. Code § 241 – Conspiracy against rights.

      Allegedly the left leaning attorney generals are the ones who are more likely to enforce civil rights legislation? Bah.

  8. Can’t anyone rid us of Adam Schiff? And isn’t Nick Clegg a Brit ex-politician? He wouldn’t know the First Amendment from a hole in the ground.

      • Of course, YOU got the reference. You think anyone at the FBI reads or watches movies about historical figures pre-dating Elliott Ness or Frank Nitti?

        • No, but they do believe in a fluid version of incitement so, suppose someone on the Left should say on the floor of Congress, “I want someone to find Donald Trump and shoot him”, the FBI would shrug and say, “Nothing to see here”. But, should someone post on Twitter, “I really think Democrats don’t understand or appreciate what a democracy is” that’s incitement and dangerous rhetoric which should be banned.

          Or something.

  9. I emailed both my Senators.

    Jack, I hope it’s alright that I pretty much copied the first paragraph of your piece into my email. I also linked them to the letter using the URL Steve W. provided and reference the US Code given by WallPhone. Thanks!

    It took less than fifteen minutes and I’m a slow typer.

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