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What is free speech? What does free speech protect? Can speech be regulated?

These are all urgent questions that need to be at the forefront of our minds in a digital age. 

The First Amendment to the US Constitution states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." What does that mean? 

In simple terms, the US government is not permitted, thanks to the Constitution, to restrict people's speech. Yet, over time, the US Supreme Court has changed its interpretations of freedom of speech. The Supreme Court's first restriction on speech can be found in Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919) in which the court established the 'clear and present danger' test. This test was established on the idea that, if speech presented a clear and present danger that Congress has the power to prevent, it should do so. 

Speech has become sanctified, yet it is not paramount. 

In his 1919 Supreme Court dissent of Abrams v. United States, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes proposed the ideal of a market in which ideas could freely compete—this metaphor is a cornerstone of First Amendment jurisprudence. It may seem as though this marketplace of ideas has come to fruition in the United States, but because of the actions of social media companies this marketplace is not free. Social media companies like Facebook have used algorithms to amplify divisive and false statements in search of profit—such content has been demonstrated to lead to greater engagement, which is a central factor in determining advertising revenue. Instead of a free competition, because of corporate behavior certain voices drown out others. The unrestricted equal platform of speech for citizens envisioned by our founding fathers is not what we have today on algorithm-dominated, digital platforms.​

The Supreme Court has in most cases taken a very restrictive view of when the Government may censor or restrict the content of communications. Although it may be possible to craft a narrowly-tailored statute to regulate certain harmful communications on social media, there is a high likelihood that any such regulation would be struck down by the Supreme Court. However, it is the federal government’s responsibility to regulate unfair business practices such as the intentional amplification of false information, which fall under the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)  act (1914) regarding unfair and deceptive advertising practices. In this way, the Government is targeting business practices with harmful effects and not directly targeting the speech of individuals. 



Censorship has almost always been a negative action. When someone hears the word censor there is a visceral negative reaction, and for good reason. I look to China, Russia, and others and see the dangerous effects of curtailing civil liberties and constraining speech. As a result, I do not want to enforce further censorship on social media platforms, but something needs to be done. 

Those who post disinformation are morally corrupt, but are currently within their constitutional right to freedom of speech. If not the posters, then who is responsible for the fallout on our society? Companies like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are responsible. They are promoting these posts purely on a basis of financial greed, and they must be responsible for internalizing their negative externalities. 

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's response to her twitter ban.

On this basis I ignited my project. I have created a bill that will regulate the amplification of dangerous speech that has become increasingly commonplace in our society.

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