Does Congress’ Facebook Shaming Hurt Free Speech?

Earlier this month, Facebook provided Congress with copies of 3,000 Russian-bought online ads as part of an investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Company officials are expected to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in November, much to the delight of those who just can’t accept Hillary Clinton lost.

Still reeling from Clinton’s drubbing by President Trump, Democrats have found their scapegoat: “Russian interference.” Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) warns against political ads “that would drive interest toward stories and groups” to “sow chaos and drive division in our country.” Apparently, $10,000 worth of Facebook ads undid the billion-dollar Clinton machine.

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Moreover, the ads themselves did not call for the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, which would be illegal. Instead, they were messages on topics like Black Lives Matter, gun rights, and refugees, but containing no obvious pro- or anti-Trump language. The ads simply amount to ideas, and we have never allowed Washington elites to decide which ideas are allowed or prohibited.

The Democrats’ recklessness brings more questions than answers. How do you regulate ideas, whether liberal or conservative, devoid of any political context? How vast a government bureaucracy will it take to police the Internet? Will federal bureaucrats follow California’s lead and grant themselves the power to impose jail time for Orwellian “crimethink”?

 

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