House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.), House Committee on Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), and House Committee on the Judiciary Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) introduced the Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act (H.R. 8752). This bill prohibits Biden Administration officials and federal bureaucrats from using their authority or influence to promote censorship of speech or pressure social media companies to censor speech.
“The Biden Administration is using the heavy hand of government to pressure social media companies into censoring Americans’ free speech and news shared on their platforms,” said Oversight Committee Ranking Member Comer. “From COVID-19 to Hunter Biden, Biden Administration officials are quick to label facts that don’t fit their narrative as disinformation and then pressure social media companies to suppress content on their platforms. This threatens Americans’ First Amendment rights. To protect freedom of speech, our bill stops the Swamp from pressuring social media companies to silence ordinary Americans.”
Under the Biden Administration, federal officials have used their positions, influence, and resources to police and censor Americans’ speech expressed on social media platforms. For example, former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki used a July 2021 press briefing to call for Facebook to ban specific accounts from its platform and later in February 2022 called upon Spotify and other major tech platforms to limit what the Administration views as “mis- and dis-information.” Reports have also uncovered concerted government efforts to pressure Twitter and Facebook to go beyond their existing community rules to caveat certain posts and suspend users viewed as spreading misinformation. And most recently, Facebook admitted it took actions at the request of the FBI in the lead up to the 2020 Presidential election to algorithmically censor the sharing of news reports regarding Hunter Biden’s laptop leak on the social media platform.
“House Energy and Commerce Republicans have repeatedly condemned President Biden’s efforts to institutionalize censorship and coordinate with Big Tech to silence Americans. Yet his administration continues to pressure private companies to censor and manipulate the truth online. Big Tech platforms have become the modern town square, and any effort to erase people from these digital spaces simply for not adhering to the woke liberal agenda is unconstitutional. I am pleased to join my colleagues, Reps. Comer and Jordan, on legislation to protect Americans’ first amendment rights from government censorship,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member McMorris Rodgers.
Summary of the Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act:
Prohibition on Federal Employee Censorship: The bill prohibits federal officials from using their official authority, influence, or resources—including contracting, grantmaking, rulemaking, licensing, permitting, investigatory, or enforcement actions—to promote the censorship of lawful speech or advocate that a third party or private entity censor speech.
Penalties for Federal Employees Engaging in Censorship: The bill includes the same established penalties for federal officials who engage in political activities in their official capacity as prohibited under the Hatch Act, including disciplinary actions such as removal, reduction in pay grade, debarment from federal employment, or monetary civil penalties.
Special Prohibitions for High Level Officials: The bill further protects American’s lawful speech by prohibiting “further restricted employees”—senior federal officials whose duties and responsibilities extend beyond normal duty hours or their office—from engaging in censorship in a personal capacity. This includes any employee of the Executive Office of the President and Presidential agency appointees.
Bill text can be viewed here.