On Thursday, one month after announcing his 2024 bid to retake the White House, former President Donald Trump rolled out his first major policy of the campaign cycle, outlining a bold and detailed plan to restore free speech through much-needed reforms of government agencies, Big Tech giants, universities, and media entities.
In a video posted on his Truth Social page, Trump promised that, if elected, he would “shatter the left-wing censorship regime and reclaim the right to free speech for all Americans.”
“If we don’t have free speech, then we just don’t have a free country. It’s as simple as that,” Trump said. “If this most fundamental right is allowed to perish, then the rest of our rights and liberties will topple just like dominoes, one by one—they’ll go down.”
Trump’s announcement comes in the middle of the ongoing publication of the so-called “Twitter Files,” which have outlined the shocking extent to which Twitter executives conspired with federal bureaucrats to silence, censor, and blacklist Americans for exercising their First Amendment rights—including the de-platforming of Trump himself, who was at the time the sitting president of the United States.
Trump nodded to these revelations in Thursday’s video, saying that “In recent weeks, bombshell reports have confirmed that a sinister group of Deep State bureaucrats, Silicon Valley tyrants, left-wing activists, and depraved corporate news media have been conspiring to manipulate and silence the American people. They have collaborated to suppress vital information on everything from elections to public health.” As Trump outlined, there is only one solution: “The censorship cartel must be dismantled and destroyed.”
Trump then went on to lay out a five-part plan to combat the erosion of free speech rights, beginning with a promise to forbid the U.S. government from “colluding with any organization” to “impede the lawful speech of American citizens.” Through a day one executive order, Trump’s plan would mandate the firing of “every federal bureaucrat who has engaged in domestic censorship—directly or indirectly.” His plan also includes banning “federal money from being used to label domestic speech as mis- or dis-information.”
As the second part of his plan, Trump vowed to order the Department of Justice to investigate “all parties involved” in the “new online censorship regime,” as well as to “aggressively prosecute” all crimes. “To assist in these efforts,” Trump continued, “I am urging House Republicans to immediately send preservation letters” to parties including the Biden administration, the Biden campaign, and tech giants, ordering them “not to destroy evidence of censorship.”
Thirdly, Trump will seek a reform of Section 230 protections, which in recent years have effectively allowed formally private companies who manage what are effectively online public squares to suppress voices that do not align with their political worldview. “From now on, digital platforms should only qualify for immunity protection under Section 230 if they meet high standards of neutrality, transparency, fairness, and non-discrimination,” Trump said. He also called on tech companies to increase their regulation of illegal content—including child exploitation and terrorism—while ensuring all “lawful speech” is not arbitrarily curtailed.
Fourth, Trump called for the defunding of “all non-profits and academic programs that support this authoritarian project.” If any American college or university is “discovered to have engaged in censorship activities or election interference in the past,” Trump said, they should lose federal research money and student loan support for a period of five years. Trump called on Congress to pass “new laws laying out clear criminal penalties for federal bureaucrats who partner with private entities to do an end-run around the Constitution and deprive Americans of their First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights.” Trump also proposed a seven-year “cooling-off period” before federal national security and intelligence agency employees can accept jobs at tech companies in possession of “vast quantities of U.S. user data.”
Finally, Trump petitioned Congress to enact a “digital Bill of Rights,” which would include a “right to digital due process” (requiring government to get a court order to request takedowns of online content) and a system by which social media users removed or restricted by their platforms have a right to an explanation of the reason why, as well as a timely appeal.
“The fight for free speech is a matter of victory or death for America—and for the survival of Western civilization itself,” Trump concluded. “When I am president, this whole rotten system of censorship and information control will be ripped out of the system at large… By restoring free speech, we will begin to reclaim our democracy and save our nation.”
From the days of the American Founding nearly 250 years ago, the American people and their government have always recognized free speech to be a crucial element of democratic self-government. And with legislative proposals like Trump’s—along with Elon Musk’s reshaping of the social media landscape—the national movement to rein in Big Tech, preserve free speech rights, and restore one of the most fundamental components of American democracy is only just beginning.
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