In a landmark move defending free speech, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent figure in the Democratic presidential race, has taken on tech titan Google. Kennedy has filed a lawsuit against Google, and its subsidiary, YouTube, accusing them of unjust censorship in collaboration with federal authorities.
Kennedy’s move doesn’t surprise those familiar with the current climate around big tech and free speech. The boundary between private companies and governmental influence has become increasingly blurry, leading some to voice concerns over potential First Amendment infringements.
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@RobertKennedyJr) August 4, 2023
The crux of Kennedy’s lawsuit alleges that the tech company, in collaboration with federal officials, employed “misinformation” policies to silence government critics, particularly during political discourse. As stated in Kennedy’s words, this action “violates the First Amendment when, as here, they result from a public-private partnership that relies on government sources.”
To illustrate the extent of the alleged censorship, Kennedy’s legal team recounted an incident wherein Google removed a video of his speech at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. This speech, attended by prominent Democrats and revolving around the concerns of corporate-state power integration, was distinctly political. The removal was rationalized as “medical misinformation,” though the content wasn’t health-related.
Scott Street, Kennedy’s attorney leading the litigation, commented on the alarming trend: “The government cannot censor its critics. It cannot do so directly and it cannot do so by empowering private entities like Google to act as the censor. That principle is fundamental to American democracy, especially when it involves political speech.”
Many who champion the First Amendment echo Street’s sentiment. Historically, freedom of expression has been the cornerstone of American democracy, with the U.S. Supreme Court upholding that “speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought.”
The lawsuit not only calls out the tech giant but also draws attention to the larger issue at hand – the potential undue influence of big tech in shaping political narratives and suppressing contrarian viewpoints. Kennedy’s allegations resonate with claims of other public figures who believe they have been silenced by tech platforms, fueling the debate over the impartiality of these digital giants.
Despite the allegations, some detractors paint Kennedy as a victim of “conspiracy theories.” For instance, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) controversially insinuated that RFK Jr. might be a “false flag” operating against his party and its hopes for a Joe Biden reelection next year.
In an era marked by political polarization and the ever-increasing dominance of tech platforms, Kennedy’s lawsuit serves as a beacon, drawing attention to the intricate balance of power and influence. As this case progresses, it will undoubtedly set precedents, whether in the realm of tech, politics, or the fundamental right to freedom of expression.