“The mainstream media has largely ignored the unsettling censorship tactics of the Biden administration, and Democrats—all the while—clearly cannot imagine a future Republican administration following this administration’s lead and censoring content that does not support the new administration’s political narrative or agenda.”
Political party control in Washington, D.C. has historically shifted at least every eight years. Democratic Party leaders who desire more government involvement in content moderation would be wise to consider the potential of a reverse political scenario after the 2024 election, should Republicans gain control of the United States Senate and, more importantly, the White House.
Revelations about the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), State Department, and even the White House directly working to censor and influence content from certain users and news sites on social media have been met by a shockingly muted response from the mainstream media. This quiet acceptance by the media is startling since these efforts by the Biden administration directly challenge the values of freedom of the press and freedom of speech, which Americans almost universally view as fundamental principles of our country. This is the same media that squealed for years when former President Donald Trump complained about coverage he did not like and labeled much of the press as “fake news.”
We learned from the Elon Musk-endorsed Twitter Files that the FBI had assigned 80 agents to a task force to monitor social media and send their content moderation suggestions via a secretive Teleport portal directly to senior executives at Twitter, Meta (Facebook), and Google (including YouTube). Democrats would be wise, thus, to imagine a reverse political scenario in 2025, when a conservative such as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Oh.) could be appointed as Director of the FBI by a newly elected Republican president. Like today’s Director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, a future Director Jordan could assign agents to meet regularly with technology company executives to ensure they are properly moderating misinformation posts deemed “harmful.”
Just as they do currently, future FBI agents could helpfully point out all of the ways that these companies are regulated and protected from lawsuits by the federal government, how the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) may or may not approve new corporate acquisitions, and how a majority in Congress is ready to vote for an anti-trust bill to break up these companies with the right encouragement. These FBI agents may never explicitly demand that the companies take action, but they could merely offer intimidating, helpful suggestions, like the FBI of the Biden administration has.
We have also learned that CDC employees were directly influencing content moderation decisions to shut down scientific debate from vaccine experts and academic scientists unless they happened to favor the Biden administration’s preferred policies. Many of the censored posts have since proven to be true, and a free press should aggressively report how this censorship proved to be harmful, especially when it came to decisions affecting schoolchildren.
Democrats today should picture an influential critic of the vaccine mandate such as, say, Alex Berenson as the newly appointed Director of the CDC in 2025. A Director Berenson could conceivably pressure technology companies to flag what he views as dangerous misinformation from former advisors such as Dr. Scott Gottlieb or Dr. Anthony Fauci, who take different positions on the most effective responses to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Even President Biden’s then-Press Secretary Jen Psaki revealed that the White House was asking technology companies to censor “problematic” posts the White House did not like and “spread disinformation.” Now, imagine Trump-loyalist Kari Lake as the Press Secretary of a new presidential administration in 2025 pressuring companies to remove posts from election-denier Stacy Abrams or tweets from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on conspiracy theories about alleged foreign influence in the 2024 presidential election.
The mainstream media has largely ignored the unsettling censorship tactics of the Biden administration, and Democrats—all the while—clearly cannot imagine a future Republican administration following this administration’s lead and censoring content that does not support the new administration’s political narrative or agenda. As such, Democrats in office today should work with the technology companies who know they need to develop and test a workable non-partisan solution that offers clear, long-term guardrails that are independent of the politics of a given time period.
Leaders of both parties must recognize the country’s need for a non-political, non-governmental solution that protects online users from harm and ensures all voices and viewpoints can be equally heard. After all, what goes around comes around, and whether it be 2024 (or 2028), the pendulum will swing back the other way soon.
Mike Matthys is a co-founder at Institute for a Better Internet (IBI), which he formed with John Quinn and Brian Jackson. He has spent his career in the technology industry and currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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