Liberal donor-backed “free speech” group decries GOP push to obtain “censorship” records

Liberal donor-backed “free speech” group decries GOP push to obtain “censorship” records

  • June 8, 2023

A “free speech” group bankrolled by top liberal foundations is taking aim at Republicans over their efforts to obtain records from taxpayer-funded universities on their “censorship” of conservatives and “disinformation” tracking plans.

Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) of the House Judiciary Committee and other top GOP lawmakers have escalated their investigations recently into universities through public records requests and letters purportedly to understand their roles in helping to throttle speech deemed as “disinformation.” Now, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, a self-styled free speech group that has taken cash from influential left-wing nonprofit groups, including the George Soros-led Open Society Foundations, is labeling the committee’s constitutionally guarded actions as a “troubling” level of “intimidation.”

“It’s remarkable and very troubling that a congressional panel that purports to be investigating censorship is engaged in the intimidation of researchers,” Jameel Jaffer, executive director for the institute, said in a statement Tuesday evening. “There’s nothing at all nefarious about researchers studying online speech and sharing their conclusions with social media platforms — and this activity is indisputably protected by the First Amendment. The panel should withdraw its sweeping demands, which undermine the very freedoms it says it is trying to protect.”

The Washington Post story described how Jordan and right-leaning watchdog groups, such as Protect the Public’s Trust led by former Trump Education Department official Michael Chamberlain, have used legal public records request tools to demand universities turn over documents on purported government grants to study “disinformation.” Protect the Public’s Trust sued the State Department in May in connection to the agency’s stonewalling of records on its grants to the Global Disinformation Index.

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