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Jeh Johnson: Government security agencies should not regulate free speech after Robert Mueller indictments

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Former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said Sunday that he would prefer to see social media firms self-regulate than see government agencies step in and dictate speech. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Sunday the federal government should be mindful of not overreaching when it comes to combating potential future Russian meddling in U.S. elections after special counsel Robert Mueller issued a slew of indictments as part of his Russia probe.

"We are a society of free speech," Johnson told ABC "This Week."

"And we need to be careful not to get security agencies of our government involved in regulating free speech."

Johnson warned of the importance for action, given his belief there is an ongoing campaign by foreign operatives to influence the 2018 midterm cycle.

But he added that social media companies were also required to take some responsibility for the problem in light of revelations regarding their use in peddling misinformation and stoking partisan politics.

"When it comes to Facebook and social media and speech that appears on social media, I think that the security agencies of our government need to be very careful in trying to delve into this whole topic," Johnson said. "I think that the answer has to be that those that provide access on the Internet do more to self-regulate, do more to make attribution to those who gain access to the information marketplace."

Mueller on Friday indicted 13 Russians and detailed a long-term plan by a Russian firm to sow political discord in the lead-up to the 2016 election, how it developed a preference for then-candidate Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, and the ways in which it worked to help Trump get elected as president.