A group of House Republican ranking members sent a letter exclusively obtained by Breitbart News to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy over growing concern that the Biden administration is pressuring Big Tech to censor Americans online.
“We write with significant concerns that the Biden Administration continues to undermine the First Amendment by pressuring technology companies to censor specific users and certain speech,” the group of Republicans wrote in the letter to Murthy. “The First Amendment prohibits the government from directly censoring speech it finds objectionable.”
The group of Republicans consists of House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), House Minority Whip and Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis Ranking Member Steve Scalise (R-LA), Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Oversight and Reform Committee Ranking Member James Comer (R-KY).
“The Biden Administration continues to attack our fundamental right to free speech as they collude with Big Tech to carry out their censorship campaign,” McMorris Rodgers told Breitbart News as part of their reasoning for sending the letter. “This is the type of behavior we would expect from an authoritarian dictator, not a sitting U.S. President and his Surgeon General.”
The group added that Biden administration officials continue to pressure private Big Tech companies to do what the administration is unable to do — censor Americans — expressing that the administration’s intimidation practice, also known as “jawboning,” could be considered unconstitutional behavior.
“In Bantam Books v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court held that a government agency violated the First Amendment by sending letters to private booksellers to ‘inform’ them they were selling books and magazines the agency found objectionable,” the lawmakers explained. “The agency’s letters thanked the booksellers for their ‘anticipated cooperation’ and reminded them of the agency’s duty to recommend prosecutions.”
“The Court found that such behavior amounted to ‘informal censorship’ because the effect of the letters was to intimidate the booksellers into suppressing the sale of the certain books and magazines,” they continued. “The Court found that such behavior amounted to an unconstitutional ‘scheme of state censorship.’ Here, the Biden Administration appears to be engaged in similar behavior.”
The group, in the letter, laid out what they believe to be similar behavior by the Biden administration:
On July 15, 2021, you issued a Surgeon General Advisory on “health misinformation” in which you demanded “tech and social media companies must do more to address” perceived health misinformation. At a press conference that same day, you decried technology companies facing “little accountability” for the spread of health misinformation. At the same press conference, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki disclosed that your office is monitoring content on technology platforms and that the Administration has been in “regular touch with” social media platforms to pressure them to “move more quickly to remove harmful, violative posts.”
Additionally, on February 1, 2022, Press Secretary Psaki applauded Spotify for adding disclaimers to certain episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience, but implicitly suggested Spotify deplatform Joe Rogan by demanding “more . . . be done.” Subsequently, on March 3, 2022, you formally requested that technology companies submit information about COVID-19 misinformation. You demanded information about the “COVID-19 misinformation policies on individual technology platforms” and, even more alarming, specific information about individuals who are considered to be “sources of COVID-19 misinformation.” Your objective is clear: ensure private actors implement policies that censor certain speech and silence certain individuals.
Similar to the “informal censorship” in Sullivan, the Biden Administration continues to pressure private actors to censor speech it finds objectionable. Like the implicit threat of prosecution in Sullivan, you have suggested accountability is needed and Press Secretary Psaki has demanded “more . . . be done” about Joe Rogan. Your most recent action is even more appalling. To demand information about Americans engaged in “wrongthink” and ask that private actors identify individuals who the government considers to be a “source[s] of COVID-19 misinformation” is un-American and an affront to free speech and expression. It seems the Biden Administration may be engaged in its own “scheme of state censorship.”
The four ranking Republicans stated that, as defenders of free speech, they are “deeply troubled” by the efforts of the administration to silence Americans and by Murthy’s “specific role” in the administration’s attempt to suppress “free speech and expression under the guise of ‘public health.’”
“Unfortunately, Big Tech has shown it is willing to do the bidding of the Democrats, which makes your ongoing pressure campaign even more alarming,” they added, asking him to respond to a series of questions that they want to be answered.
Jacob Bliss is a reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter.