Last week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) undertook a procedural move to force the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to vote on an amendment he’d proposed that would’ve tacked prominent GOP talking points onto a bill that was under consideration. Nearly the entire committee rejected Paul’s proposal, with 13 “no” votes and only two members in favor, according to the Senator’s team.
The basic gist of Paul’s proposal mirrors initiatives that have already circulated in the currently GOP-led U.S. House, though the effort isn’t likely to get very far. In short, Paul’s proposal would broadly block U.S. government personnel from getting in touch with social media companies regarding content on their sites. The guiding idea is to stop supposed censorship, though there is no compelling evidence that the government compelled these companies — or, in meaningfully direct terms, colluded with them — on the suppression of material.
Still, conservatives like their conspiracy theories about their supposed victimhood. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) started complaining in a recent committee hearing on COVID-19 about supposed censorship she faced after spreading misleading claims about deaths supposedly meaningfully related to vaccinations.
There could be seriously damaging real-world ramifications of implementing something like Paul’s effort. In general, what about government efforts to look into criminal activity that might be documented on social media sites or to subvert foreign efforts at spreading lies?
“Recent unsettling disclosures, including those within the Twitter files, illustrate how the federal government has leveraged taxpayer-funded resources to collude with social media companies and censor disfavored speech on topics from COVID-19 to U.S. elections,” Paul said, misrepresenting the facts. “The freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment is one of the bedrock principles of our founding, and Congress must defend this right against government censorship. It is against this backdrop that I call up my amendment which would prohibit federal employees from using their official position to censor speech on social media and other outlets.”
Some have tried to make a big deal out of the government providing Twitter with financial compensation in connection to information requests that authorities made… but covering the costs of compliance isn’t indicative of something special. It’s routine.