Republican Senators Fight Against DHS Censorship Powers

Senate Republicans are taking a strong stance against the alleged censorship practices of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The recent findings of the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals indicate CISA violated the First Amendment by guiding social media platforms in content moderation.

Members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, primarily Republicans, are advocating for legislation that would restrict CISA’s ability to work with tech companies to censor content. They have introduced bills that mandate transparency and accountability regarding CISA’s activities.

According to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), “CISA has blatantly violated the First Amendment and colluded with big tech to censor the speech of ordinary Americans.” He emphasizes that although federal courts have ordered CISA to halt these actions, trust can only be restored through a full accounting of CISA’s activities and subsequent legal changes that establish severe penalties for similar future actions.

Paul has introduced a bill called the Free Speech Protection Act, which would require CISA to disclose its past actions that violated the First Amendment. It would also establish penalties to prevent government censorship in the future. This Act blocks government employees from influencing censorship. It prohibits government grants related to “misinformation or disinformation,” requiring reporting of government censorship requests of protected speech.

Furthermore, over 100 House Republicans attempted to cut CISA’s budget by 25% at the end of September. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) noted that this issue of corruption is not limited to the current administration but was also present during the Trump administration. He highlights the importance of exposing this corruption and then passing legislation to prohibit and penalize such actions in the future.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) has reintroduced the PRESERVE Online Speech Act to combat government censorship efforts. His communications director, McKinley Lewis, stated, “The government should never play a role in censoring Americans’ free speech — and when the Biden administration inevitably does, Americans deserve to know with full transparency and accountability.”

This bill would require social media companies to report all instances of government content moderation requests and impose a $50,000 per day penalty on companies that do not comply. The funds collected from these fines would then be used to provide access to broadband internet in rural areas.

The efforts of Senate Republicans to fight against DHS and CISA’s alleged censorship practices are significant. These legislative initiatives aim to restore trust, establish penalties for future violations, and protect the fundamental right to free speech. As these bills move forward, it will be crucial to monitor their progress and the potential impact on the relationship between the government and social media platforms.