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Excuse Me? Did This Democratic Congressman Say He Would Love To Regulate Content Of Speech?

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) has been one of the President Trump’s most vocal critics on the Hill. He’s a California liberal; what you have it any other way? Yet, when it comes to free speech rights, he might be a little hazy. First, let’s circle back to the congressional hearing on Google yesterday. Lieu said he doesn’t believe that Google, which has been accused of having a liberal bias, intentionally muddied search results. He also said that Google has the right to be biased, which sort of undercut the whole reason why Google’s top executive was there, defending the search engine from such accusations. Paul Crookston at the Washington Free Beacon noted something interesting as well. Lieu seems to be arguing for corporate free speech rights, which seem to run counter to his support for overturning Citizens United, which also applies to nonprofits and unions (via Free Beacon):


Citizens United asserted corporations have free speech rights and therefore can spend their money on political messages, which Lieu and many other Democrats have roundly criticized. Lieu has backed a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United and called the Court’s decision "disastrous," but Tuesday he mocked Republicans for questioning Google CEO Sundar Pichai over Google’s potential political bias.

"This is now the fourth hearing in a series of ridiculous hearings on the free speech of internet companies," said Lieu, who has also criticized Republicans for other hearings about political messages online. "A significant portion of this hearing was a waste of time because the First Amendment protects private individuals’ and corporations’ free speech rights."

"The First Amendment limits what the government can do in regulating the content of speech, it does not limit Google, but Google does have to follow corporate laws and other laws, and under those laws you and your board of directors have a fiduciary duty to your shareholders," Lieu told Pichai.


Lieu explained his point in terms of dog and cat videos, but his ultimate argument is that Google is allowed to promote certain views over others if that gives users what they want. Google’s purpose in the free market, Lieu asserted, was to follow applicable laws while gaining users and making money for shareholders, and therefore arguments about fairness are irrelevant.

Lieu’s point—that Google is allowed to have its own viewpoint as expressed in search results—seems to undermine Pichai’s main point in the hearing, which is that Google has no bias.


Well, as the saying goes, liberals have short memories. On CNN today, Lieu said that he would like to regulate the “content of speech,” but that pesky First Amendment of the Constitution prevents him from doing that. 

He first mentioned regulating the content of speech on Twitter with Matt Stoller of the Open Markets Institute, who made a note that the Democratic talking point of corporate free speech is a fool’s errand. Lieu said that he would like to regulate Fox News 

“I agree there are serious issues, but the speech issues are protected by the First Amendment. Would I like to regulate Fox News? Yes, but I can't because the First Amendment stops me. And that's ultimately a good thing in the long run.” 

So, I guess on face value (giving a lot of leeway here), it’s good that Lieu gets that the First Amendment protects free speech that he doesn’t like, but like most liberals nowadays, they wish that it didn’t. That's not very reassuring, however.



UPDATE: It's not what he says at the end. Viewing the Constitution as an obstacle because you want to be the speech police is not a good hill to die on--you all know this. Now, it is an obstacle in the sense that it stops people, like Lieu, from turning the U.S. into Oceania. And that's precisely the point of the document. Unlike the liberal interpretation, our founding documents tells us what we cannot do. It's meant to constrain government. In the era of monarchs and landed aristocracies monopolizing power, you can see why we have a Bill of Rights prohibiting government from bulldozing citizens' rights, from free speech to housing soldiers int their homes against their will. The Left thinks they can govern through the Constitution. That's totally wrong. 

From what I gather, the Left's position is more of 'we have this amendment preventing us from regulating speech...for now.' It's still odious.  

After CNN host Brianna Keilar praised Lieu for the "clever" stunt, she wondered if Democrats should have used more of their time to question the Google leader about how it and other tech companies can work to prevent the spread of conspiracy theories and other online trolling.

"It's a very good point you make," Lieu said. "I would love if I could have more than five minutes to question witnesses. Unfortunately, I don't get that opportunity. However, I would love to be able to regulate the content of speech. The First Amendment prevents me from doing so, and that's simply a function of the First Amendment, but I think over the long run, it's better the government does not regulate the content of speech."


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