Congress may compel Twitter and Facebook to answer for why they temporarily suppressed a New York Post article alleging corruption by Joe Biden's son Hunter. The plan takes allegations about Twitter and Facebook's alleged "censorship" to absurd new heights. In the name of sticking up for the First Amendment—which protects people from censorship and compelled speech by their government, not the other way around—and stopping bias, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee want to help compel the platforming of speech that could help their side.
Trying to suppress the Post article may have been a dumb call by Twitter and Facebook. However, the First Amendment does not prohibit private companies from abridging speech. And the government can only compel a private individual or group to help platform a particular message in very limited circumstances.
That's a limited government principle that Republicans champion when it comes to speech they don't like—for instance, in a case where crisis pregnancy centers were compelled by California to post messages with information about accessing abortion services. The state said this was simply neutral information and patients at these centers could do with it what they wanted. But the crisis pregnancy centers (and many Republicans) argued that this infringed on their First Amendment rights, and the Supreme Court agreed.
Alas, these days, Republicans frequently espouse a desire to compel or coerce social media companies into sharing certain messages. Hence the current move to make Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg face a full Senate Judiciary Committee inquiry over why, for a short period, they limited distribution of a story making questionable but damning claims about the Democratic presidential candidate and his son.
At least some people seem to be thinking twice about this, thank goodness. "The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday postponed plans to vote on subpoenas to compel the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook to testify on allegations of anti-conservative bias after some panel Republicans expressed reservation about the maneuver," reports Politico:
The panel announced Monday it will now consider whether to authorize the subpoenas at a high-profile executive session Thursday where it is separately expected to approve Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. The committee said in a statement it will continue to negotiate with the companies 'to allow for voluntary testimony' by the CEOs, but that if an agreement is not reached the panel will move ahead with a vote on the subpoenas 'at a date to be determined.'
Judiciary staff has indicated internally that plans for the vote were delayed in part due to some GOP panel members wavering on whether to support the action, according to one Senate GOP aide, who spoke anonymously to discuss private negotiations. Republican officials have also expressed trepidation about how quickly the committee has moved to vote on the subpoenas, the aide said. A committee spokesperson did not immediately offer comment on the matter.
But Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas), chair of the committee's subcommittee on the Constitution, remains undeterred in his quest to violate constitutional rights.
"One way or another, either voluntarily or pursuant to subpoena, they will testify and they will testify before the election," Cruz told reporters yesterday.
Dorsey, Zuckerberg, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai are already scheduled to testify before a Senate committee once next week. On Wednesday, the Commerce Committee plans to grill them about Section 230.
The U.S. Supreme Court won't intervene to stop Pennsylvania from counting ballots that come in up to three days post-election. "The court on Monday rejected a Republican plea to pause a September ruling from Pennsylvania's state supreme court that allowed ballots to be counted as long as they are postmarked by election day and received up to three days later," reports The Guardian.
The 4-4 decision saw Chief Justice John Roberts and the three liberal justices ruling to allow the lower court's decision to stand. (The even split leaves the lower court decision standing.) University of Kentucky law professor Joshua A. Douglas explains some broader implications of the ruling here.
Senate Republicans are introducing measures to limit the Supreme Court to nine justices. "The first proposal, also known as the 'Keep Nine' amendment, would amend the U.S. Constitution to prevent the expansion or contraction of the Supreme Court and codify the current nine-member court," explains a press release. "The second proposal would require a supermajority (two-thirds) vote before any legislative effort to modify the size of the Court could be considered in the Senate."
Restaurants fight for the right to happy hour. On the R Street Institute's new The Right to Drink podcast, "booze expert and host Jarrett Dieterle explains why some states allow happy hour and others don't—and the fight to change that." Dieterle talks to business owners in three different states who have run up against these regulations.
Our trip starts in Northern Virginia in 2009, when a man named Geoff Tracy decided to open a restaurant in an area called Tyson's Corner. Chef Geoff, as he's known, was already a very successful restauranteur by this point, owning several well-regarded establishments in nearby Washington, D.C. and Maryland. But as experienced as he was, crossing over the border into Virginia for his newest restaurant proved trickier than he'd imagined. That's because Virginia had something that neither DC nor Maryland had: a government that effectively outlawed happy hour."
Listen to the whole thing here.
• This is fun:
Which words first appeared in print the year you were born?
Time travel with us:https://t.co/eX0PXxhe15
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) October 19, 2020
• A woman was charged with a misdemeanor after feeding a bear in a TikTok video.
• "Although well-intentioned, term limits have a problem," writes R Street Institute Governance Project fellow Anthony Marcum at USA Today. "Not only are they unconstitutional, but they will have the exact opposite result proponents wish for."
• In case you need to escape into more fiction reading these days…Dazed has interesting recommendations on new English-language book releases from authors around the world.