On Wednesday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “Alex Wagner Tonight,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) stated that he believes Meta should look to Supreme Court First Amendment law to determine how they handle former President Donald Trump’s reinstatement to Facebook and Instagram and Trump shouldn’t be punished if he engages in speech protected by the First Amendment. Khanna also pointed out that the incitement standard that he believes Meta should follow has protected and still protects people on the left as well and that “a few people who are multibillionaires” shouldn’t be making decisions on speech in society.
Host Alex Wagner asked, “Let’s just start with your reaction to the assertion on the part of Meta that the threat of violence has sufficiently receded, do you agree with that?”
Khanna responded, “I do not. I certainly think there are a lot of people in the Capitol who don’t agree with that. Unfortunately, [there are] a lot of colleagues who still receive death threats and travel around with security. But Alex, I’m a classical liberal, and I do believe very strongly in free speech and in getting different viewpoints, and it’s a very difficult situation where you have someone who’s leading the Republican nomination for president to say that they should not have a forum on essentially a modern public square. So, I guess where I come out is, if they’re going to lift the ban, but take action to ban him again if he has any posts that [incite] violence, that seems like a reasonable compromise.”
He added that he isn’t sure if the new guardrails Meta has put in place “will be sufficient to keep him in check, but it seems to me that it is reasonable as long as Facebook follows through. So, under Brandenburg, our First Amendment law, which I think should inform Facebook, because it’s one of the greatest decisions, along with New York Times [v.] Sullivan, if someone is posting or saying something that incites violence, that actually is not protected speech. And if Donald Trump does that again, like he was doing on January 6, there should be a clear consequence for that, and he should be removed. So, I guess the question is, are they going to enforce those guardrails?”
Khanna further said that to determine what is incitement, “they should look to First Amendment jurisprudence. I mean, those calls are made all the time by our judges. And it has to be imminent, the threat, it has to actually be leading to violence, just tough words are not enough. And that was actually New York Times v. Sullivan, often to protect, frankly, the Civil Rights movement, or anti-Vietnam protestors saying you can’t just censor speech if it is provocative. This First Amendment jurisprudence protects, not just conservatives, but liberals. But my concern is that a private corporation like Meta, do they really have the independent jurists to be making those kind of decisions in a way that has the public trust? And I guess that’s my broader criticism of some of the social media companies that you have a few people who are multibillionaires making these decisions about speech in society. I understand why the Supreme Court or our judges are making it. But now you’ve got private companies making it.”
He concluded, “I think here, there are concerns on censorship, but, Alex the censorship is often against the left, more than the right. The top ten most popular sites on Facebook, nine out of ten of them are conservative sites.”
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