Federal officials will vote next week on legislation that would bar Americans from taking steps to interfere with free speech, weeks after the FBI tried to work with Twitter to suppress political stories.
The Republican Party is calling for a law to protect the language from government interference. James Comer, R-Ky., chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, introduced the bill after Twitter itself released reports showing dozens of FBI agents pressured Twitter for months to remove messages.
At the February 8 hearing, Comer said the FBI spent a lot of time pressing Twitter to reveal a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden.
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“The FBI advised senior Twitter executives to question the veracity of any Hunter Biden story,” Comer said. “We also know that one of the witnesses before us today was involved in a hack and dump operation involving other major tech companies and journalists, including Hunter Biden, at the Aspen Institute trials in September 2020.”
A House committee approved the bill last week and it is expected to go before the House next week.
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“It is inappropriate and dangerous for the federal government to decide what legal speech is allowed in a private sector forum,” Comer said this week. “The federal government should not be able to decide what legal speech is allowed; We have the First Amendment for a very good reason."
Comer said the bill "would make this behavior by federal officials illegal, and subject to disciplinary action and financial penalties for those who attempt to censor the legitimate speech of Americans."
He said the problem is broader than the FBI's attempts to influence Twitter. For example, former White House press secretary Jane Pasaki noted that they openly called on Facebook and other companies to block certain accounts to stifle free speech.
Matt Tybee points out that fired Twitter board member Jim Baker investigated the "Twitter Files" without Elon Musk's knowledge.
Under the Act, federal officials are prohibited from taking any action designed to suppress, limit, or supplement the legally protected speech of a private company through the enforcement of disclaimers or reservations.
“When the Biden administration wants to articulate its political position or political preferences, it has its own mass media resources to engage in the public space and present its information and arguments,” Comer said. "When the administration feels it is losing the political debate and the public's trust, the response should never be to use the resources and authority of the federal government to limit the speech of others."