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There is currently an unprecedented legal battle raging in the US between several state attorneys general, a judge who is siding with them, versus a court of appeals that is reluctant; and there’s the activities of the White House that prompted it all.
It’s the case of serious accusations leveled at the Biden administration and major social platforms of colluding to suppress free speech; and even though the developments in the lawsuit so far give some reason for optimism, those in Congress who are vocal about the need to separate the state and “the Church of Big Tech,” as it were, are not resting easy.
Whether or not the First Amendment case results in a resounding victory for the anti-censorship side in the battle, some Republicans are trying to make sure that there is actual legislation in place, rather than only a possible precedent set by a court ruling, to protect speech.
Currently, this is happening in the form of two House spending bills (here and here) that concern the likes of the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – but not exclusively – which basically seek to “defund state-driven censorship,” i.e., these federal agencies’ collusion efforts with Big Tech, the extent of which is shockingly documented in the Twitter Files.
One proposal is to ban the DHS and a group known as the Global Engagement Center from banding together to police online speech.
It comes as Congress is considering the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that is approved every year. A provision would now prevent the Department of Defense (DoD) from bankrolling organizations like NewsGuard, the Global Disinformation Index, and Graphika Technologies.
The wording of the bill is stark: if passed, the Pentagon (DoD) would be banned from giving money to groups that, “advise the censorship or blacklisting of news sources based on subjective criteria or political biases” – doing so under the guise of combating “misinformation,” “foreign propaganda,” and/or performing “fact checking.”
Similar provisions can be found in the House bill drafts that cover the said agencies, but also the Executive Office of the President, the Justice Department, the FBI – and many more.
The Global Engagement Center, meanwhile, is singled out as effectively the kingpin in what the bills refer to as the “censorship industrial complex.”