In an order fittingly issued on Independence Day, a federal judge in Louisiana has forbidden multiple federal agencies and named officials from having any contact with social media companies with the intent to moderate content.
The preliminary injunction arises from a suit filed by the states of Missouri and Louisiana, along with individuals that include two leading critics of the Covid-19 lockdown regime — Harvard’s Martin Kulldorff and Stanford’s Jay Bhattacharya — and Jim Hoft, who owns the right-wing website Gateway Pundit.
“If the allegations made by plaintiffs are true, the present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history,” wrote US District Judge Terry A. Doughty. “The plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits in establishing that the government has used its power to silence the opposition.””
The dozens of people and agencies bound by the injunction include President Biden, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control, the Treasury Department, State Department, the US Election Assistance Commission, the FBI and entire Justice Department, and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Bhattacharya and Kulldorff, who are among the originators of the Great Barrington Declaration that denounced the lockdown regime, have been victims of social media censorship. For example, the pair says their censorship-triggering statements included assertions that “thinking everyone must be vaccinated is scientifically flawed,” questioning the value of masks, and stating that natural immunity is stronger than vaccine immunity.
While the case is dominated by Covid-19 censorship, it also encompasses the Justice Department’s efforts to suppress reporting about Hunter Biden’s “laptop from hell” in the run-up to the 2020 election. Doughty gave credence to that accusation.
The injunction represents a major validation of accusations that government officials have colluded with social media platforms to suppress speech that counters official narratives, with the restraints falling almost exclusively on conservative viewpoints.
“The evidence thus far depicts an almost dystopian scenario,” wrote Doughty in a 155-page ruling. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, a period perhaps best characterized by widespread doubt and uncertainty, the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth’.”
“The White House defendants made it very clear to social-media companies what they wanted suppressed and what they wanted amplified,” wrote Doughty. “Faced with unrelenting pressure from the most powerful office in the world, the social-media companies apparently complied.”
Doughty quoted communications from administration officials to social media company employees, saying they represent “examples of coercion exercised by the White House defendants.” Here’s a small sampling:
- “Cannot stress the degree to which this needs to be resolved immediately. Please remove this account immediately.”
- To Facebook: “Are you guys fucking serious? I want an answer on what happened here and I want it today.”
- “This is a concern that is shared at the highest (and I mean highest) levels of the WH”
- “Hey folks, wanted to flag the below tweet and am wondering if we can get moving on the process of having it removed. ASAP”
The judge noted that the badgering came simultaneous with threats of changing the social media regulation scheme, and that those threats had extra credibility since they came as the Democrats controlled the White House and Congress.
The accusation that the social media platforms and government were acting in concert is substantiated by the communication and bureaucracy that surrounded the endeavor. “Many emails between the White House and social-media companies referred to themselves as ‘partners.’ Twitter even sent the White House a ‘Partner Support Portal’ for expedited review of the White House’s requests,” wrote Doughty, a 2017 Trump nominee.
A long list of agencies and people are now barred from contacting social media platforms with “the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.”
“If there is a bedrock principal underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable,” wrote Doughty.