Online lies and internet spin paralyze Congress

As an American journalist, I have been threatened with violence, fired and canceled for what I’ve written and for what I had to say on the airwaves since social media has gone wild.

There’s no way to forget the flood of threats and harassing calls I received when my personal contact information was released in a WikiLeaks data-dump of stolen emails belonging to high-level government sources.

My life was threatened after the last Republican president went online to slam me for criticizing his trade policy on a Sunday talk show. 

These ugly memories surface now because Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State, as well as former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and top U.S. intelligence officials, are warning that online abuse is on the rise.

This flood is being pumped by artificial intelligence and “deep fakes” to trash journalism and poison the flow of fact-based news during the presidential election.

Even though the bad guys are getting better at using the internet to damage democracy, the U.S. Congress and law enforcement are doing almost nothing to stop them. 

There was a spark of hope when the House recently voted to ban Tik Tok, now the leading news source for many Americans, from operating in the U.S. unless it frees itself from Chinese control.

The Chinese government, as both Republicans and Democrats pointed out, can use Tik Tok data to track people, mislead voters and spread lies.

It would be as if the Russians had controlled CBS or one of the other big broadcast networks during the Cold War, as Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) put it in interview with TMZ. Yet the Senate has not acted on TikTok.

And what about Facebook, X and all the other platforms rife with political lies, personal threats, and conspiracy theories?

The only action from the federal government came in 2017 when Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and the late John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced the Honest Ads Act, which would have regulated foreign-paid campaign ads on websites such as Facebook and Google.

The Senate never voted on that small potato, and the limited legislation died. 

The price of inaction goes way beyond the threat of corrupt advertising. The very lifeblood of democracy — an informed people allowed to vote in free elections — is currently overshadowed by threats from the growing dark web. 

The New York Times reported last week that former President Trump’s campaign is fighting and winning at efforts to keep the internet open to disinformation.

“Trump and his allies,” the paper reported, argue that any regulation of lies and violent threats online is a “dangerous effort to censor conservatives.” Trump’s agents are winning, the Times noted, by posturing as champions of free speech who are spreading alarm about big government punishing its critics by regulating content.

In fact, there is no evident threat of the U.S. government silencing anyone on the internet, even people pushing lies and threats.

The reality is the opposite.

There is dangerous, growing abuse of the internet by domestic grifters as well as foreign governments intent on controlling U.S. elections.

Secretary of State Blinken warned last week that “the most profound change,” in his life in American politics and foreign affairs is the current use of internet-borne disinformation. Speaking in South Korea Blinken warned: “Our competitors and adversaries are using disinformation to exploit fissures within our democracies….We also know the information space has become more crowded, more complex, more confusing, more contested than ever. That, in turn, creates an enabling environment for disinformation — an environment in which state and non-state actors are undermining the objective truths on which open societies depend,” Blinken added. 

The same caution is being voiced by Hillary Clinton.

“Past is prologue, and our foreign adversaries are more motivated than ever to try and interfere in our elections,” the former presidential candidate recently told Semafor. 

As Semafor’s Morgan Chalfant reported U.S. intelligence officials are signaling that “foreign adversaries will seek to take advantage of the divided, divisive U.S. political landscape in the run-up to the presidential election in November.”

These warnings have become loud and clear, especially regarding Russia, a country with a history of having interfered in the 2016 elections.

In a flashing red light of a story, The Washington Post reported last week that Trump wants to bring back to his team a man linked to Russian interference. Paul Manafort is being considered to help Trump with the Republican National Convention and to raise money.

The former president pardoned Manafort after his loss in 2020 and after the Senate Intelligence Committee, then headed by Republican Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), reported that Manafort posed a “grave counterintelligence threat,” due to his standing as “the single most direct tie between senior Trump Campaign officials and the Russian intelligence services.”

The intelligence committee also said they had information possibly linking Manafort to Russia’s success in the “hack-and-leak operations.”


Putin paid no price for those attacks on American democracy, and he appears ready to do it again. Yet Congress remains frozen in efforts to halt the lies, threats and conspiracy theories that constantly flow like corrosive sewage on the internet.

Is Congress so broken by partisan politics that it can’t protect American democracy?

Juan Williams is an author and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

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