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House passes bill allowing DOJ to force deletion of social media posts from select users

Iphone Displaying Social Media Application (Pexels/Released)
March 05, 2021

The House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, the “For The People Act,” on Wednesday, a bill that would allow the Department of Justice to require social media platforms to remove posts from certain users.

Originally introduced as The Foreign Agent Disclaimer Enhancement (FADE) Act, FADE was included in H.R. 1 as an amendment by a vote of 223-208 Wednesday night. The addition requires social media sites to include a disclaimer on political content if it is funded by a foreign agent, and if that disclaimer is not included, the DOJ can order the social media site to remove the posts.

The amendment was included as an effort to limit foreign disinformation and propaganda. No Republicans voted in favor of the legislation, and just one Democrat opposed it.

“The United States must be on guard against those who seek to sow division and spread false information,” said Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat representative from Virginia who first introduced the act last year with John Katko (R-NY), The Hill reported. “Disclaimers on misleading, foreign-backed social media posts are often non-existent, particularly when content is shared or linked. In these instances, social media works as a rumor mill for disinformation.”

Additionally, the amendment would expand the existing Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by requiring political advertisements and similar foreign-funded posts designed to influence users in the United States be reported to the DOJ. At the moment, FARA does not consistently apply to social media posts, according to The Hill.

The American Civil Liberties Union also came out against the bill, claiming it would “unconstitutionally infringe the freedoms of speech and association.”

“…the bill, in its current form, would still unconstitutionally burden the speech and associational rights of many public interest organizations and American citizens. These provisions will chill speech essential to our public discourse and would do little to serve the public’s legitimate interest in knowing who is providing substantial support for candidates’ elections,” the ACLU wrote in a letter opposing the legislation.

The For The People Act also “addresses voter access, election integrity and security, campaign finance, and ethics for the three branches of government. Specifically, the bill expands voter registration (e.g., automatic and same-day registration) and voting access (e.g., vote-by-mail and early voting). It also limits removing voters from voter rolls. The bill requires states to establish independent redistricting commissions to carry out congressional redistricting.”

H.R. 1 also permits “ballot-harvesting,” which allows third parties to round up absentee ballots and deliver them to polling stations. Critics of the practice assert it leads to voter coercion, forged signatures, and fraudulent ballots.