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Ted Lieu Clarifies His ‘Inartful’ Free-Speech Comments

Rep. Ted Lieu on MSNBC, August 2018 (MNSBC/via YouTube)

Representative Ted Lieu (D., Calif.) clarified Friday remarks he made after attending Google’s hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, which critics interpreted as an endorsement of censorship.

“I absolutely could have said it better. It was inartful how I said it. I think some people took it out of context. I was exactly conveying the opposite, which is, I’m a huge believer in the First Amendment and we don’t have the right to regulate the content of speech,” Lieu said of his comments during an interview on SiriusXM’s The Wilkow Majority.

Asked Wednesday whether he and his colleagues should have pressed Google CEO Sundar Pichai harder on the proliferation of hate speech online, Lieu said he “would love” to censor speech but understood the long term harm that would result.

“It’s a very good point you make,” Lieu told CNN’s Brianna Keilar. “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.”

During the hearing, Lieu pushed back on his conservative colleagues’ assertions that Google’s search algorithm unfairly elevates negative content about conservatives and depresses positive coverage. To illustrate his point, Lieu googled two Republican lawmakers’ names and read the top results, which included both positive and negative coverage.

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