On Sunday, December 17, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford, will debate Dr. Kate Klonick, Associate Professor of Law at St. John’s University Law School, on whether Judge Terry Doughty’s July 4 injunction restricting the Biden Administration’s communications with social media platforms hindered or helped “national internet policy.”
The topic refers to the federal district court’s 155-page ruling in Missouri v. Biden, which ordered the federal government to halt its efforts to induce Big Tech to censor its political opponents. Judge Doughty wrote that if the plaintiffs’ allegations are true, the case “arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history.”
Dr. Bhattacharya is a Plaintiff in the lawsuit, which alleges that he and his colleagues “experienced extensive censorship on social media” for their criticism of the US Government’s Covid policies. In his affidavit, Dr. Bhattacharya testifies that there was a “relentless covert campaign of social-media censorship of our dissenting view from the government’s preferred message.”
Dr. Klonick previewed her support for the Government’s ability to work with private companies to control the flow of information in a July op-ed for the New York Times, “The Future of Online Speech Shouldn’t Belong to One Trump-Appointed Judge in Louisiana.”
Klonick’s article raises factual and analytical questions that Bhattacharya should raise in their debate.
Does the Future of Online Speech Belong to Anyone?
Klonick’s headline is fundamentally at odds with the concept of free speech. Under the First Amendment, speech does not belong to any person or entity. Future speech receives heightened protections under Supreme Court precedent to curtail prior restraint.
Next Sunday, Dr. Bhattacharya should ask Klonick: who should “speech” belong to? This is not a pedantic or rhetorical point; those with control over information instinctively protect their own interests. A survey of American power structures demonstrates the corruption that power breeds.
Should the future of speech belong to CISA? The Department of Homeland Security subdivision monitored speech in the 2020 election through “switchboarding,” a process in which it flagged content for removal from social media platforms.
The US Security State censored posts related to natural immunity, Hunter Biden’s laptop, the lab-leak theory, and side effects of the vaccine, many of which were later proven true. In each instance, the suppression of information benefitted the country’s most powerful institutions.
Or should it belong to the Biden Administration? Every day, the White House slowly kills Julian Assange in Belmarsh Prison. The President hasn’t accused the Wikileaks publisher of falsehoods; instead, Assange has spent over ten years in confinement for disrupting the preferred narrative of the American political class.
Should speech belong to unelected bureaucrats? Biden cronies like Rob Flaherty and Andy Slavitt have worked for years to control Americans’ access to information, including censoring “mal-information,” meaning “often-true information” that they consider “sensational.”
Should it instead belong to health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci? Fauci learned that he was complicit in funding the Wuhan Institute of Virology on January 27, 2020, and orchestrated a cover-up campaign to shield himself from criticism and potential legal liability. He called for a “quick and devastating… take down (sic)” of the Great Barrington Declaration, co-authored by Dr. Bhattacharya, because it questioned his judgment on lockdowns.
Our First Amendment demands that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press. Alleged falsehood does not overturn this principle. As the Supreme Court recognized in United States v. Alvarez: “Some false statements are inevitable if there is to be an open and vigorous expression of views in public and private conversation.”