Human rights and press freedom defenders have hailed a ruling by Judge Terry Doughty that bars President Joe Biden and government officials from censoring social media content.
Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media studies at New York University, called the decision “good news,” adding, “Under the First Amendment, the government may not collude with corporations – including ‘social media’ companies – to limit the free speech of citizens. To put it more bluntly, such collusion is, quite literally, fascistic.”
In his 155-page ruling, Judge Terry Doughty of the US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana Monroe Division said there is “substantial evidence” the government violated the First Amendment by engaging in a large-scale censorship campaign targeting content that questioned or countered establishment narratives on Covid-19.
Dr Meryl Nass, a member of CHD’s scientific advisory committee, said that although this case is not yet completed, its ramifications are “tremendously important.”
Nass said revelations coming from this case and from the “Twitter Files” expose “the extraordinary, multibillion-dollar-per-year censorship apparatus installed within DHS and outsourced to academic centres, nonprofits and for-profit companies.”
Similarly, independent journalist Paul D. Thacker, who released several instalments of the “Twitter Files,” told The Defender the ruling also has implications for the collusion of academic institutions with the federal government and social media platforms under the guise of combating “misinformation” and “disinformation.”
“I think what we don’t realise yet is how critical some parts of academia have become to the censorship industry,” Thacker said. “Academia has been harnessed to help censor Americans. I think that’s really being overlooked.”
Technology expert Michael Rectenwald, author of “Google Archipelago: The Digital Gulag and the Simulation of Freedom” and a former New York University liberal studies professor, said:
“These social media firms have never been strictly private, free-market enterprises. No one can credibly say, ‘but they are private companies; they can censor whatever and whoever they want’ … [when they] have been operating like ventriloquist dummies by the Biden regime.
“As I pointed out over four years ago in Google Archipelago, these Big Digital goliaths are state apparatuses and have been since their inception. They are funded by the state, staffed by former state agents and do the state’s bidding …
“The collusion between the government and these corporations amounts to fascism.”
In an article published in The Gateway Pundit, Jim Hoft, the site’s founder and editor-in-chief, called the ruling an “Independence Day victory,” and said that the federal government has, until now, “been focused on obfuscating and stonewalling evidence on the one hand, and engaging in numerous tactics to extricate itself from the lawsuit.”
“Now that the government lost its main effort to crush us, the real war begins,” Hoft wrote. “Having lost this crucial battle, the government will be compelled to engage in full, ‘general’ discovery,” a process in which he said the plaintiffs will “conduct a wide-ranging investigation into the government’s fascist conspiracy with Big Tech.”
No official response has come from the Biden administration or the Big Tech platforms named in the lawsuit as of this writing. An unnamed White House official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that the DOJ “will evaluate its options in this case,” adding that “This administration has promoted responsible actions to protect public health, safety, and security when confronted by challenges like a deadly pandemic and foreign attacks on our elections.”
“Our consistent view remains that social media platforms have a critical responsibility to take account of the effects their platforms are having on the American people, but make independent choices about the information they present,” the official stated.
Along similar lines, KFF Health News described the ruling as a “hit” against the “White House effort to curb online health misinfo.”
In a tweet, Landry said he expects the federal government to appeal, but that he and Bailey “will aggressively defend” the case.
“We’re not done yet. We’re just getting started,” Landry wrote, adding that the case may eventually be heard before the US Supreme Court.
The lawsuit was filed May 5, 2022. New Civil Liberties Alliance, a nonprofit group representing critics of Covids-19 vaccines and restrictions including Drs Jay Bhattacharya, Martin Kulldorff, Kheriaty and Jill Hines, joined the suit in August 2022, as did Hoft.
The complaint alleges the Biden administration colluded with platforms such as Twitter, Meta, YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn to “suppress disfavoured speakers, viewpoints and content” on topics such as Covid-19, election integrity and the Hunter Biden laptop scandal, to prevent the spread of “misinformation” and “disinformation.”
Dr Anthony Fauci and several Biden administration officials provided sworn depositions as part of the ongoing lawsuit.
According to CNN, “Though Doughty hasn’t yet ruled on the merits of the two states’ claims, his order … represents their most significant victory yet in the ongoing lawsuit.”
However, in the memorandum accompanying his ruling, Doughty wrote the plaintiffs are “likely to succeed on the merits in establishing that the government has used its power to silence the opposition,” adding: “Opposition to Covid-19 vaccines; opposition to Covid-19 masking and lockdowns; opposition to the lab-leak theory of Covid-19; opposition to the validity of the 2020 election; opposition to President Biden’s policies; statements that the Hunter Biden laptop story was true; and opposition to policies of the government officials in power. All were suppressed.”
Doughty rejected arguments by Biden administration lawyers, who, according to the AP, argued the lawsuit aims to “suppress the speech of federal government officials under the guise of protecting the speech rights of others.”
Government lawyers also claimed the injunction “would significantly hinder” the government’s ability to “provide accurate information to the public on matters of grave public concern such as health care and election integrity.”
Doughty previously refused to dismiss the lawsuit. In a March 20 ruling, he found the plaintiffs’ claims were plausible and worthy of further litigation, allowing the plaintiffs to collect evidence, including emails sent between the White House and social media companies.
“This censorship was encouraged – perhaps even mandated – by the Biden Administration and several key governmental departments,” Doughty wrote in March.
At present, no date appears to have been set for a final ruling regarding the injunction.
In November 2022, CHD and other organisations and individuals moved to intervene in the suit on behalf of the public interest and their respective organisations: CHD, Mercola.com, The Truth About Vaccines and The Truth About Cancer.
Kennedy, Dr Joseph Mercola and Charlene and Ty Bollinger were among the 12 individuals singled out by the Center for Countering Digital Hate as belonging to “The Disinformation Dozen” due to content they shared online regarding vaccines.
They are seeking open public access to critical sworn depositions and documents from the Missouri v. Biden case, already produced on behalf of plaintiffs, for use in other litigation, such as CHD’s March 2023 lawsuit against the Biden administration.
McCollough told The Defender the lawsuit is one of several cases before the courts with significant implications for the future of free speech in the US.
These cases include two pending US Supreme Court cases involving Section 230 – which gives internet providers legal protections for hosting, moderating and removing most user content, two cases involving state laws restricting social media censorship, and the ongoing Missouri v. Biden and CHD lawsuits against the federal government.
McCollough said the Supreme Court’s June 30 decision in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, which found that the First Amendment prohibited the State of Colorado from compelling a website creator to create a website with messages that violate her values, is “very much connected” to the other ongoing cases.
As a result of the 303 decision and the social media cases which are pending, courts “will finally figure out” what the role of the social media platforms is in regulating speech and working on behalf of the government, he said.
McCollough said the outcome of these cases will “determine where this country goes, whether we will indeed succumb to this global set of societies, all under the thumb of a group of global elites who control information, the economy and every aspect of our lives.”
- The Defender report