The House passed a bill on Thursday to prohibit federal officials from pressuring social media platforms to censor content.
The Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act states that it is intended to “prohibit Federal employees from advocating for censorship of viewpoints in their official capacity, and for other purposes.”
The bill passed by a vote of 219-206.
“It is the policy of the Congress that employees acting in their official capacity should neither take action within their authority or influence to promote the censorship of any speech, nor advocate that a third party, including a private entity, censor such speech,” the text of the bill reads.
The bill’s lead sponsor was Rep. James Comer, who said in a statement that “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.”
“It is inappropriate and dangerous for the federal government to decide what lawful speech is allowed on a private sector platform,” Comer said during a hearing on the matter on Wednesday.
“My bill, the Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act, makes this type of behavior an unlawful activity for federal officials to engage in — subjecting those who attempt to censor the lawful speech of Americans to disciplinary actions and monetary penalties,” he continued. “The federal government should not be able to decide what lawful speech is allowed — we have the First Amendment for a very good reason.”
Democrat Rep. Daniel Goldman argued that the bill was unnecessary.
“This bill purports to protect free speech from government censorship. And I agree, it’s a great idea. It’s such a good idea, in fact, that the Founding Fathers put it in the Constitution,” Goldman said on the House floor. “It’s called the First Amendment.”
“We don’t need a new bill to protect free speech because that is currently the law of the land. So we must ask ourselves: what is the point of this bill?” he continued.
Chad Wolf, Executive Director of America First Policy Institute, endorsed the bill.
“Our First Amendment rights are at stake,” Wolf said in a statement. “Time and time again, we’ve seen the current Administration betray the trust of the American people by pressuring, encouraging, and colluding with Big Tech giants to censor ideology they disagree with. This simply cannot go unchallenged, and we applaud Chairman Comer and the House Oversight Committee for proactively fighting this blatant violation of our most cherished and fundamental right.”