Lawsuit alleging government collusion with social media companies to censor speech expands

(The Center Square) – Officials from the White House, Centers for Disease Control, the FBI and 11 other federal agencies are being added to a lawsuit alleging collusion with social media companies to censor speech.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced Monday the filing of a 164-page second amended complaint against 47 additional defendants, bringing the total to 67. The two announced their plan to file a motion requesting the court to allow them to take depositions of the defendants.

Schmitt and Landry filed a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit against President Joe Biden and other officials earlier this year. The motion argued social media platforms are the equivalent to the public square from decades ago.

U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty in July allowed Schmitt and Landry to begin a discovery phase, giving five social media companies and top government officials 30 days to respond to subpoenas.

Additions to the list of defendants are Andy Slavitt, a White House senior advisor for the COVID-19 response and the former leader of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Rob Flaherty, the White House director of Digital Strategy. Laura Dehmlow, the FBI section chief for the foreign influence task force, also was added along with Elvis Chan, who oversees cyber-related issues for the FBI’s San Francisco Division near Silicon Valley.

“… Chan has performed a critical role in communicating with social media platforms on behalf of the FBI relating to censorship and suppression of speech on social media,” the complaint states.

“Missouri and Louisiana filed a landmark lawsuit, seeking to expose that the federal government has worked hand-in-hand with social media companies to censor freedom of speech on their platforms,” said Schmitt, a Republican running against Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine for the seat of retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt. “Our lawsuit has done exactly that – we’ve found a staggering ‘censorship enterprise’ that extends to a multitude of federal agencies and implicates government officials at the highest levels of government, but we’re not done yet.”

The complaint alleges the defendant’s censorship “squelches plaintiffs’ core political speech on matters of great public concern. This includes speech relating to COVID-19 policies – especially speech criticizing the government’s response to COVID-19. … It also extends to speech about election security and integrity, including core political speech. … and the censorship targets speech simply because it is critical of the President of the United States.”

“Throughout this case, we have uncovered a disturbing amount of collusion between Big Tech and Big Government,” Landry said in a statement. “This egregious attack on our First Amendment will be met with an equally full-hearted defense of the rights of the American people.”

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