JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A federal judge has granted Missouri and Louisiana’s request to depose top-ranking Biden administration officials for “colluding to suppress freedom of speech.”
The lawsuit, filed in May by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Louisiana AG Jeff Landry, alleges Biden administration officials worked with “social media giants” Meta, Twitter and YouTube to “censor and suppress free speech, including truthful information, related to COVID-19, election integrity and other topics, under the guises of combating ‘misinformation.’”
Friday’s ruling clears the way for depositions from Dr. Anthony Fauci, former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Director of White House Digital Strategy Rob Flaherty, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Elvis Chan and many other Biden administration officials.
“After finding documentation of a collusive relationship between the Biden administration and social media companies to censor free speech, we immediately filed a motion to get these officials under oath,” Schmitt said in a statement. “It is high time we shine a light on this censorship enterprise and force these officials to come clean to the American people, and this ruling will allow us to do just that.”
Earlier this month, Schmitt and Landry filed a 164-page amended complaint adding 47 defendants to the suit, bringing the total to 67.
The lawsuit cites an October 2020 New York Post story that detailed disturbing photos, videos and emails found on Hunter Biden’s laptop that was abandoned in a Delaware computer repair shop. After the story was published, Twitter quickly locked the news outlet’s main Twitter account and blocked other users from publishing a link to the story, labeling it “potentially harmful.”
Two years later, left-leaning outlets The New York Times and The Washington Post “quietly published stories that acknowledge the truth and veracity of the New York Post’s original reporting,” Schmitt’s office said.
The lawsuit also details efforts by Facebook, now named Meta, to censor and discredit posts theorizing the COVID-19 pandemic began with a leak from a biotech lab in Wuhan, China.
“On information and belief, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a senior federal government official, coordinating with others, orchestrated a campaign to discredit the lab-leak hypothesis in early 2020,” the lawsuit states. “At the same time as he was orchestrating a campaign to falsely discredit the lab-leak theory, Dr. Fauci was exchanging emails with Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, regarding the control and dissemination of COVID-19 information.”
Schmitt’s office says Facebook then expanded its content moderation to censor posts suggesting COVID-19 might have been man-made. Schmitt claims the social media behemoth stopped censoring posts “only after a large number of major media outlets confirmed the lab-leak theory was a possibility.”
In June, Schmitt and Landry filed a motion for Expedited Preliminary Injunction-Related Discovery, which was granted in July, clearing the path for the plaintiffs to gather “discovery” information and documents from Biden administration officials and social media companies. The request for depositions was filed on Oct. 10, 2022, and granted on Friday.
The lawsuit alleges four counts: a violation of the First Amendment, Action in Excess of Statutory Authority, violation of the Administrative Procedure Act by Health and Human Services officials, and violation of the same act by Department of Homeland Security officials.
“Defendants have coerced, threatened, and pressured social-media platforms to censor disfavored speakers and viewpoints by using threats of adverse government action,” the lawsuit says. “As a result of such threats, Defendants are now directly colluding with social-media platforms to censor disfavored speakers and viewpoints, including by pressuring them to censor certain content and speakers, and ‘flagging’ disfavored content and speakers for censorship.”