Big League Censorship? Michigan Attorney General Threatens Criminal Prosecution Over Posting Of Video Alleging Voter Fraud
I have been commenting on the ongoing challenges to the presidential election. While I have not seen evidence of systemic voter fraud, there are hundreds of affidavits alleging localized fraud, including cases of deceased persons voting. The challenges should be heard and the evidence examined. However, the most worrisome response to these allegations came out of Michigan this week where Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s Office of Public Information threatened a website, Big League Politics, with criminal prosecution if it did not take down a video of alleged voting fraud. The video may indeed be misleading or false. However, the threat of criminal prosecution by the Michigan Attorney General is a chilling escalation of the crackdown on free speech in this country and the calls for censorship on the Internet.
We have been discussing the calls for top Democrats for increased private censorship on social media and the Internet. President-elect Joe Biden has himself called for such censorship, including blocking President Donald Trump’s criticism of mail-in voting. Recently, Bill Russo, a deputy communications director on Biden’s campaign press team, tweeted that Facebook “is shredding the fabric of our democracy” by allowing such views to be shared freely.
The calls mirror the trend in Europe where countries like France, Germany, and England have criminalized speech with ever expanding examples of prohibited expressions and views.
The Cease and Desist letter instructs the site to remove all posts, links, and anything similar immediately which correspond with #LeakDetroit.” Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark states that “failure to comply will result in criminal prosecution.” There is no citation for the penal code provision that makes such an allegation or posting a crime, a standard element in such notice letters.
As have previously discussed how the Supreme Court in cases like United States v. Alvarez has repeatedly found such criminalization of alleged speech to be unconstitutional. The position reminds me of the English view that speaking ill of the government must be prohibited.
Lord Chief Justice John Holt, in a 1704 sedition trial, said it was absurd that speakers and writers “should not be called to account for possessing the people with an ill-opinion of the government, no government can subsist. For it is very necessary for all governments that the people should have a good opinion of it.”
The calls for censorship and criminalization of speech have become a rallying cry for liberals in the United States. Even academics now embrace speech codes and censorship. The erosion of free speech on social media and the Internet includes calls from leading Democratic leaders for years to implement private censorship of political speech, a view supported by academics who have declared that “China was right” about censorship. The concerns over Nessel’s threat are magnified by the fact that the allegation challenges the results of the elections favoring her own party and political allies. If such a posting is a crime, what would stop Nessel from prosecuting the New York Times or Fox News for such videos or alleged whistleblower evidence?
The threat of criminal prosecution should be immediately withdrawn by Nessel and his office.