A federal judge Tuesday blocked the Biden administration from content-related contact with social media firms, as part of Missouri’s lawsuit alleging the government colluded with the companies to impede and silence conservative speech.
In short, for the time being the federal government can’t police online speech through Big Tech companies.
In issuing the stunning preliminary injunction on Independence Day, U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty wrote that Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey and his counterpart in Louisiana “are likely to succeed on the merits in establishing that the government has used its power to silence the opposition.”
“If the allegations made by plaintiffs are true, the present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history,” the judge wrote.
Remarkably, many in the news media seem OK with government-Big Tech collusion, the New York Times noting rather innocently that “federal agencies and the tech giants have long worked together to take action against illegal or harmful material,” especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In retrospect, however, much of the content that was taken down contained good questions, later proved valid or accurate, about vaccine efficacy and safety, and the value of masking and lockdowns. Beliefs that the virus leaked from a Wuhan virus lab, also widely targeted by the government and censored by social media, are now not only considered quite legitimate but are the leading theory among even some federal agencies.
Also censored, the judge noted, were posts, almost invariably by conservatives, questioning the validity of the 2020 election, opposing Biden policies, and promoting the Hunter Biden laptop story – the latter of which has been firmly established as true.
“What a way to celebrate Independence Day,” Bailey tweeted about the injunction.
“The judge’s order was historic and we are confident it will stand,” the Missouri AG elaborated in a written statement Wednesday, noting the likelihood of an appeal by the Biden administration.
“We are ready to move immediately into merits discovery and we are confident we will ultimately prevail in this case and the judge’s preliminary order will be made permanent. The evidence of government collusion with, and coercion of, social media companies to censor disfavored speech is overwhelming. The judge’s order sends a clear message to Biden that censoring speech you don’t like is anathema to our Constitution. As attorney general, I will never stop fighting to protect the people’s right to free, fair and open debate.”
“The evidence in our case is shocking and offensive,” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry wrote in his own statement, “with senior federal officials deciding that they could dictate what Americans can and cannot say on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms about COVID-19, elections, criticism of the government, and more.”
“During the COVID-19 pandemic,” the judge wrote, “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 reference is to George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, in which an overarching “Big Brother” government sought to control thought and speech.
The judge’s questioning of government lawyers at a May 26 hearing presaged his Tuesday ruling. Indeed, as Bailey tweeted after the hearing, Judge Doughty “asked the feds if they had ever read George Orwell’s 1984, pointing out the similarities between the case and the book.”
“For instance,” Bailey told The Heartlander in an exclusive interview last month, “the court asked the Department of Justice if they would be allowed to censor Americans who question the effectiveness of the COVID vaccine. DOJ responded, ‘Well, it depends.’ The court then asked, ‘Well, would it be a violation of the First Amendment for you to censor speech as it relates to whether masks work?’ ‘Well, it depends,’ was the response.
“The court then moved beyond the COVID issue and started asking if it would be a violation of the First Amendment for the federal government to censor individuals who questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election. And the Department of Justice said, ‘Well, it depends.’
“So, they’re unwilling to commit to protecting the First Amendment right of Americans to have fair, free, and open debate about these political issues.”
Notably, the judge pointed out that each of the posts censored during Big Tech/Biden cooperation was supportive of conservative views.
“This targeted suppression of conservative ideas is a perfect example of viewpoint discrimination of political speech,” the judge wrote in his order. “American citizens have the right to engage in free debate about the significant issues affecting the country … the evidence produced thus far depicts an almost dystopian scenario.”
“This,” Bailey told The Heartlander, “is the most important First Amendment suit in a generation. The question before us is whether or not the federal government can silence conservative voices on Big Tech social media platforms.”