50+ Orgs Join Demand Progress and Freedom of Press Foundation to Fight Internet Censorship Provision in NDAA

Today, a broad coalition of more than 50 media guilds, press freedom, civil liberties, and government transparency organizations joined Demand Progress and Freedom of the Press Foundation in a letter to the Senate urging the blocking of a dangerous new amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would censor the online publication of information about members of Congress and those connected to them. 

“Senators Klobuchar and Cruz’s internet censorship amendment will have a heavy toll on journalists, non-profits, and members of the public who seek to use their First Amendment rights to identify corruption at the highest levels, all while failing to provide members of Congress the security they need,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress. “We must know whether our representatives are honest, and Senate Amendment 218 to the NDAA would empower them to remove true facts from the internet and databases, an invitation to the grossest abuses of power where political figures and their staff can pick and choose what speech they like and censor the rest.” 

The internet censorship amendment, Senate Amendment 218, offered by Sens. Klobuchar and Cruz to the must-pass Senate NDAA, is largely identical to the Judicial Security and Privacy Act that was slipped in at the last minute to last year’s NDAA, but this amendment is focused on Congress, not federal judges. It has serious First Amendment problems because it lets members of Congress forcefully coerce the removal of certain information about them or their families from the internet. It is very broad as it can apply to their parents, adult kids, siblings, roommates, and staff, and can cause the removal of basic information such as properties that they own, where they are located, and their email addresses.

It would effectively prevent watchdogs and journalists from reporting on conflicts of interest and other congressional ethics matters. For instance:

  • An anti-corruption organization checking the new property or vehicle purchases of a lawmaker under allegations of taking financial bribes;
  • A journalist reporting on the travel plans and thus the whereabouts of lawmakers who are facing criticism for their response to a natural disaster in their home state or district;
  • A campaign watchdog reporting on whether a member of Congress lives in the district they represent.

The full list of signatories:

Demand Progress
Freedom of the Press Foundation
Action Corps
Advocacy for Principled Action in Government
American Civil Liberties Union
American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA)
Americans For Prosperity
Better Government Association
Center for Media and Democracy
Center for Progressive Reform
Center for Public Integrity
D.C. Open Government Coalition
Defending Rights & Dissent
Due Process Institute
Fight for the Future
First Amendment Clinic at the University of Illinois College of Law First Amendment Coalition
First Amendment Foundation
Fix the Court
Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression
Free Government Information (FGI)
Free Press Action
Freedom of Information Oklahoma
Government Information Watch
Greenpeace USA
Institute for Nonprofit News
Kentucky Open Government Coalition
League of Women Voters of the United States
Ms. Magazine
Muslims for Just Futures
National Coalition Against Censorship
National Freedom of Information Coalition
National Newspaper Association
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
New Mexico Foundation for Open Government
Nexstar Media Group, Inc.
Organization for Identity & Cultural Development (OICD.net)
Pay Our Interns
PEN America
Project On Government Oversight
Radio Television Digital News Association
Texas Press Association
The Authors Guild
The Center for Investigative Reporting (d/b/a Reveal)
The Indiana Coalition for Open Government
The Workers Circle
Tucson Sentinel
Virginia Coalition for Open Government
Woodhull Freedom Foundation