AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
A frenzy of legal action over the Biden administration’s ability to collude directly with Big Tech companies to restrict so-called “misinformation” has further exposed the left’s attempted end-run around the Constitution to censor online speech.
Only July 4, U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty of Louisiana granted a preliminary injunction in a 2022 lawsuit brought by Attorneys General Jeff Landry and Eric Schmitt of Louisiana and Missouri. (Schmitt has since won election to the U.S. Senate.) Judge Doughty’s order, citing “substantial evidence” that “the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth,’” forbids multiple government agencies and Biden administration officials from meeting with or contacting social media companies.
Landry and Schmitt’s lawsuit catalogues a litany of instances where senior Biden administration officials instructed “content moderators” at Twitter and Facebook to throttle or outright ban accounts that contradicted the White House’s narrative on topics such as COVID-19 and the Hunter Biden Laptop scandal – and threatened those companies with antitrust and regulatory action if they did not comply.
In one example from the lawsuit, employees at Instagram quickly acquiesced to a request from the Biden White House to remove an account critical of Dr. Anthony Fauci. In another, Biden director of digital strategy Ron Flaherty demanded that Facebook take down a Tucker Carlson video even after Facebook employees told him it “doesn’t qualify for removal.”
In effect, as Landry and Schmitt outline and Judge Doughty affirms, the Biden administration is outsourcing government censorship to Big Tech companies, whose policies against “misinformation” are a convenient cover for restricting First Amendment freedoms.
Unsurprisingly, the Biden Justice Department quickly filed a request to pause the July 4 order banning contact with social media companies. But in a 13-page ruling on July 10, Judge Doughty denied the motion to stay his preliminary injunction.
One line from Judge Doughty’s ruling in particular stands out. In response to an argument by the Justice Department that the injunction would “prohibit [the Biden administration] from engaging in a vast range of lawful conduct,” Doughty says that the preliminary injunction “only prohibits what the Defendants have no right to do—urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech on social-media platforms.”
“In other words,” Doughty writes, “the only effect of staying the preliminary injunction would be to free Defendants to urge, encourage, pressure, or induce the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech on social media platforms.”
The order makes explicit that the federal government can still notify social media companies about threats to national security, criminal efforts to suppress voting, foreign attempts to influence elections, and communications that intend “to detect, prevent, or mitigate malicious cyber activity.” The fact that the White House felt compelled to dispatch the Justice Department to try to reverse the injunction anyway is an unintentional admission that the government is indeed engaging in online censorship via its relationship with Big Tech companies.
But despite two stinging rebukes from Doughty, the Biden administration did get some temporary relief late last week from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which placed a hold on Doughty’s injunction. A panel of three judges – two of whom were appointed by Democrat presidents – ruled that Doughty’s order is void until the court can issue a full decision on the merits of his ruling.
For the Biden administration and Big Tech companies, the flurry of legal activity has raised some uncomfortable questions and attracted unwanted scrutiny. During a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week, Republicans grilled FBI Director Chris Wray on the actions of his agency revealed by the original Landry and Schmitt lawsuit. Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) referenced Doughty’s ruling in his opening statement, accusing the FBI of lying to the public and colluding with Big Tech companies to censor online speech.
The liberal media has also been forced into action to defend government officials colluding with Big Tech – exposing that they too are in on the corrupt game. CNN’s Elie Honig called Doughty’s injunction “one of the most aggressive, far-reaching rulings you’ll ever see,” while MSNBC’s Ryan Reilly argued the federal government is actually engaging in too little censorship. Longtime journalist and broadcaster Mike Barnicle, meanwhile, bizarrely stated that Doughty’s ruling “voided the First Amendment.”
Yet the more Democrats and the mainstream media rail against rules prohibiting collusion between the government and Big Tech, the more they reveal that “combatting misinformation” really means silencing anything that differs from the left’s approved narrative. Even if conservatives don’t win every courtroom battle, the public is beginning to see through the charade.
Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @ShaneHarris513.