Oversight Committee Advances Legislation to Protect Speech from Government Censorship
WASHINGTON—Today, the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability passed two bills to protect speech from government censorship, the Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act (H.R. 140) and the Accountability for Government Censorship Act (H.R. 1162).
The Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act, introduced by Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.), expands the Hatch Act—the law prohibiting federal employees from engaging in political activities in their official capacity—to expressly prohibit those same federal employees from censoring lawful speech. The bill prohibits agency employees from using their official authority or resources to influence or coerce a private sector platform to censor—including to remove, suppress, restrict, or add disclaimers or alerts to—any lawful speech posted on its platform by a person or entity. It provides an exception for legitimate law enforcement activities reported to Congress for review.
“Today the Oversight Committee took action to protect our constitutional right to free speech from government censorship. The Biden Administration has eroded Americans’ First Amendment rights by bullying social media companies to censor certain views and news on their platforms. Biden Administration officials are quick to label inconvenient facts as disinformation and then pressure social media companies to suppress content on their platforms. To protect the First Amendment, the Protect Speech from Government Interference Act stops federal employees from pressuring social media companies to silence Americans expressing views online. I thank Chairs Jim Jordan and Cathy McMorris Rodgers for their support in cosponsoring my bill and look forward to the House of Representatives taking up this legislation soon,” said Chairman Comer.
The Accountability for Government Censorship Act, introduced by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), requires a government-wide report to Congress of every instance, over the past five years, that a federal agency has communicated with an interactive computer service for the purpose of removing, suppressing, restricting, or adding disclaimers to lawful speech. The report will include the agency employees that initiated the communication, the targeted platforms, and a justification of the action. Agency compliance with the reporting requirement will be audited by the inspectors general.
“The American People deserve to know how and why their hard-earned taxpayer dollars are being used by their own government to censor and suppress their God-given and Constitutionally protected right to free speech. This bill would do just that by requiring a comprehensive report on agency activities to censor lawful speech on social media platforms,” said Rep. Perry.
At the markup, the committee also adopted its authorization and oversight plan for the 118th Congress. More on today’s markup can be found here.