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Dem Rep. Ted Lieu makes a striking remark about his desire to regulate free speech


'I would love to be able to regulate the content of speech'

Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Politicon

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) told CNN that even though the First Amendment prevents him from doing so, he would love to regulate the content of speech.

Lieu made the comment while talking to CNN's Brianna Keilar about Tuesday's House Judiciary Committee hearing with Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Keilar opened the exchange with an extremely long question which managed to (1) dismiss Republican concerns about Google (2) compliment Lieu for a stunt he used to dismiss Republican concerns about Google and (3) still criticize Google for how it manages its searches. Here's how it went:

Keilar: You took an opportunity to push back on Republican claims of bias in Google searches. In the middle of this hearing you Googled Republican Steve Scalise, you Googled, after that, Republican Steve King to show that there were favorable stories, including from conservative outlets, about Scalise, negative coverage of King, and you made the point, essentially, that that's not because of a Google algorithm, it's because of what these members do and say. I will say, it was clever, and caught some attention, but I wonder, have you thought that, maybe, you and other Democrats missed opportunities to use your time to press Google's CEO at a time when these large tech companies are struggling to manage content, perpetuating conspiracy theories, they're so vulnerable to outside interference, isn't that a focus that could've been a missed opportunity?
Lieu: So it's a very good point you make. I would love, if I could have more than five minutes, to question witnesses. Unfortunately, I don't get that opportunity. However, I would love to be able to regulate the content of speech. The First Amendment prevents me from doing so, and that's simply a function of the First Amendment, but I think over the long run, it's better the government does not regulate the content of speech. I would urge these private sector companies to regulate it better themselves. That's really nothing I believe government can do, so that's been my position all along.

Lieu's comments could be taken multiple ways. On one hand, some interpret it as meaning he wishes he could regulate free speech, but begrudgingly acknowledges that the Constitution won't allow it.

However, his repeated remark that government should not play that role, and that private companies should regulate the content on their platforms, indicate that the comment could be more harmless than it seems out of context.

Watch the clip here:

Democratic congressman Ted Lieu: I'd love to be able to regulate speech

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