WASHINGTON—House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) announced a markup of legislation to protect speech from government censorship.
“Next week, the House Oversight Committee will take up legislation to protect 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 Oversight Committee will consider bills that stop the federal government from pressuring social media companies to silence Americans expressing views online and require a government-wide report to provide transparency about government censorship activity. This transparency and accountability are long overdue,” said Oversight Committee Chairman Comer.
WHAT: Full Committee Markup
- H.R. 140, Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act: This bill, 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 authority 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.
- H.R. __, Accountability for Government Censorship Act: This bill, to be 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 a non-governmental entity for the purpose of removing, suppressing, restricting, or adding disclaimers to lawful speech posted on a platform. 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.
DATE: Tuesday, February 28, 2023
TIME: 11:00am ET
LOCATION: 2154 Rayburn House Office Building
The markup will be open to the public and press and will be livestreamed online at https://oversight.house.gov/.
Comer Probes State Department’s Use of Taxpayer Dollars to Fund Censorship Campaigns
WASHINGTON—House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) today is pressing Secretary of State Antony Blinken about reports that U.S. taxpayer dollars administered by the Department of State were used to suppress lawful speech and defund conservative news outlets under the guise of combatting disinformation. Chairman Comer is requesting documents and a staff-level briefing on the State Department’s use of taxpayer dollars to fund censorship campaigns.
“The Committee on Oversight and Accountability is investigating reports that federal funds administered by the Department of State were used to suppress lawful speech and defund disfavored news outlets under the guise of combatting disinformation. The Committee is disturbed by recent reporting that taxpayer money ended up in the hands of a foreign organization running an advertising blacklist of organizations accused of hosting disinformation on their websites, including several conservative-leaning news organizations. The Committee seeks documents and a staff-level briefing to understand the scope of the Department’s use of federal funds for a taxpayer-funded censorship campaign,” wrote Chairman Comer.
According to the Washington Examiner, the Global Disinformation Index (GDI) received $330,000 in federal funds administered by the State Department. This British organization offers “risk ratings” to major ad companies to advise them on what websites and news outlets to avoid. Some of the media outlets GDI identified as the “riskiest” include Newsmax, The New York Post, RealClearPolitics, and The Federalist. The purpose of these risk ratings is to pressure advertisers into pulling their ads from these websites.
“We continue to be concerned by efforts across the federal government to censor the lawful speech of Americans and discredit legitimate criticism as mis-, dis-, or mal- information, whether through the creation of a ‘Disinformation Governance Board,’ or labeling dissenting opinions as threats to critical infrastructure. The federal government should not be censoring free speech nor policing what news outlets Americans choose to consume. And taxpayer funds should never be given to third parties with the intent that they be used to censor lawful speech or abridge the freedom of the press,” continued Chairman Comer.
The letter to Secretary Blinken can be found here.