We live in a world where people can destroy someone else’s life from a smartphone in a matter of minutes. Many people may not care when someone like me is the target. But they should, because what happened to me could—and probably will—happen to you or someone you care about.
Last week, in a span of 24 hours, my reputation and business were destroyed by a series of tweets in which The Lincoln Project knowingly lied about me. Among other things, they falsely accused me of trying to “suppress voters and people” in several tweets that also tagged my employer and several of its well-known clients. The goal was to cancel me and inflict as much harm as possible, and they succeeded. Unfortunately, disgusting tactics like these are becoming the norm and the truth does not seem to matter anymore.
The truth is that I co-sponsored and voted for bi-partisan Georgia Senate Bill 62, which provides ballots in the state of Georgia to have a watermark, seal, and other security elements to include the precinct number—which are best practices. I did not sponsor or vote in favor of other recent bills in Georgia that sought to limit no excuse absentee balloting and reduce weekend voting. As a matter of fact, some groups attacked me for not supporting these other measures. My record is crystal clear. I believe voting is a sacred right and should be available, transparent, and secure for all citizens. I am proud of my work in this area.
The fact that I serve in elected office does not justify what happened to me. I am also a husband and father, as well as a source of income for my family and many other people who worked for me in the private sector. In Georgia, we are a citizen’s legislature and considered part-time. I do not earn my living serving as a state Senator. In fact, I donated my $17,000 a year salary to charity. I earned a living in business. I worked with incredible people, built a great team, and we were very successful.
Even though The Lincoln Project is plagued by well-publicized allegations of sexual harassment and financial impropriety that have been covered by almost every major media outlet, its “words matter” and have had devastating consequences. Because of their tweets, I have already been falsely labeled, lost my job, and received threats against my entire family.
I understood when I decided to seek public office that I would be subjected to harsh and hurtful criticism. It comes with the job because free speech plays an essential role in our democracy.
But freedom of speech is not limitless. Nearly half a century ago, the Supreme Court recognized in Gertz v. Robert Welch that: “There is no constitutional value in false statements of fact. Neither the intentional lie nor the careless error materially advances society's interest in ‘uninhibited, robust and wide-open’ debate on public issues.”
Simply stated, canceling people based on lies is not constitutionally protected free speech and must be stopped. People who are willing to subvert the truth for their own political and personal agendas present an imminent threat to our democracy and the important protections the First Amendment provides. We cannot allow radical groups like The Lincoln Project to continue using lies and deception to stoke division and destabilize our great country. We must take a united stand in defense of the truth and against this type of misconduct. If not, you could be the next one who gets canceled.
To review, in a span of 24 hours a publicly discredited group, tweeted proven lies, copied my employer and its clients, cost me my business job and then deleted the false tweets. This can happen to you; this is economic terrorism; this can happen to anyone.
Sen. John Albers is a Georgia State Senator.