While he still can, professor warns free speech under attack from all sides

While he still can, professor warns free speech under attack from all sides

While he still can, professor warns free speech under attack from all sides

For years the clearest difference between the United States and totalitarian regimes has been the right to free speech, including the right to criticize your government, but an attorney and law professor warns the tyrants are among us and they brought friends.

In the current fight for First Amendment rights, the state of Missouri seemingly came out of nowhere to take on Big Brother. That was because the state's then-attorney general, Eric Schmitt, sued in federal court to force the Biden administration to reveal its backdoor collusion with Big Tech. 

Missouri v Biden, which accuses powerful people of limiting opposing viewpoints, and hiding their work from the American public, now awaits a ruling from the Fifth Circuit.

A lower court’s ruling against the Biden administration was a victory for those who opposed mask and vaccine mandates during COVID-19, or who don’t believe Biden’s aggressive far-left policies are best for America.

The question the courts must decide is if the government should be allowed to define truth.

That would seem to be the rare question that could produce a bipartisan response, but Carl Szabo recently told American Family Radio that, sadly, is not the case.

“For nearly 200 years, it didn't matter who was in office -- Democrats or Republicans, or the precursors of their parties -- they all agreed that government should not be deciding what is or is not truth,” Szabo, general counsel for NetChoice and adjunct professor of Internet law, told show host Jenna Ellis. “Government should not be deciding what is or is not allowed to be printed. Government should not be allowed to decide what is or is not said."

Citing a recent poll, Szabo says 70% of Democrats said they support government restricting false information online. In the poll, 40% of Republicans said they support that, too.

"That's terrifying," the professor said of the poll. "That's an overwhelming majority of Democrats think government should be in the position to decide what is or is not allowed to be said.”

Pew Research Center findings released in July also showed a greater tolerance from most Americans to take steps to restrict false information online. The findings also showed a greater confidence in tech companies determining what should be restricted than the government.

Meanwhile, the Missouri v Biden lawsuit points to a separate question: What happens when Big Tech is working with the government. 

"This lawsuit has uncovered a relationship of coercion and collusion by the Biden White House across a spectrum of federal bureaucratic agencies to target and silent American voices on Big Tech social media platforms," Andrew Bailey, now the current Missouri attorney general, told AFR. "We all saw it happening, right? We all saw the deplatforming, the shadow banning – but what we didn't know is that it was going on at the behest of federal officials … and that's what this lawsuit has uncovered."

Will courts 'backstop' government censorship? 

Media coverage of Missouri v. Biden has been scarce, which might be both alarming and revealing to many, but the media's disinterest is not surprising to Szabo. He says most traditional media are cheering for the government because of who is holding power right now, which is thanks largely to their friends in the media.  

“It’s helping to empower the people that they want to see in office, whether it's Joe Biden, whether it is the Democrats across the board," he told show host Jenna Ellis. "What we are seeing is exactly this: the weaponization of government and the ability of government to censor free speech." 

Szabo said NetChoice, whose stated mission is to help make the Internet safe for free enterprise and free expression, is involved in First Amendment litigation against three other states, one of them California.

“This is what separates the United States of America from most of the rest of the world," he observed. "We are one of the only nations that makes it crystal clear that the government cannot tell us what to say, what to hear, and what religion to practice, and that's an important protection that I think is being lost."

It is now up to our courts to "backstop" government censorship, he said, and defend the First Amendment. 

The Biden administration has attempted to control speech before, Szabo said.

“We saw it a year ago," he recalled. "Most of us remember the disinformation governance board. Fortunately enough jokes were made about it, it was so Orwellian, so absurd that it fell a part, but it did not stop there.”

At the time, The New York Times said the disinformation board was itself a victim of disinformation.

Free speech bill introduced in Congress

Szabo praised Republican leadership in the House and the free speech legislation put forth by representatives Jim Jordan and James Comer in the spring.

Szabo, Carl Szabo

Comer and the House Oversight and Accountability Committee proposed the Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act, a bill that prohibits federal employees from pressuring social media companies to silence, censor or remove Americans expressing views online.

“The Biden administration has eroded Americans’ First Amendment rights by bullying social media companies to censor certain views and news on their platforms. The Oversight Committee is taking action to protect Americans’ constitutional right to free speech from government censorship,” Comer wrote in March.

Rand Paul proposed a similar effort in the Senate.

Democrats proclaimed Donald Trump was destroying free speech during his time in the White House, the law professor pointed out, but the reality is that neither political party has the right to claim free speech for itself.

“We need to go to the ballot box," Szabo urged. "We need to pull the lever for the, for the representatives who will defend our right to speak our right to hear and get government out of the role of deciding what is or is not truth."