Hearing into Biden administration’s online censorship of conservatives goes exceedingly poorly for government, observers report

A hearing Thursday over whether the Biden administration can censor online speech “did not go well” for the federal government, according to one interested observer.

Matt Taibbi – the investigative reporter famous for releasing the Twitter Files detailing the social media platform’s censorship of conservatives – was in the courtroom as a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals grilled Department of Justice lawyers over the administration’s collusion with, and alleged coercion of, Big Tech to suppress posts it doesn’t like.

The panel heard arguments in the Missouri v. Biden lawsuit as to whether a judge’s injunction halting the Biden administration’s collusion with Big Tech should stay in place. The injunction, issued conspicuously on Independence Day, prohibits federal agencies from in any way inducing social media companies to censor protected speech.

A decision on whether to uphold the injunction is expected in the next 30 to 60 days, Taibbi estimates.

That decision will likely determine how free and robust online political debate is during the 2024 election cycle.

The judges’ questions at Thursday’s hearing seemed to savage the government lawyers, if you read Taibbi’s tea leaves.

“I think it’s fair to say a very lively appellate hearing on the Missouri v. Biden injunction today did not go well for the federal defendants,” Taibbi tweeted after the hearing. “In the court gallery some of the assembled winced during the relentless questioning of the administration’s lawyer, the way people do at boxing matches when someone walks into a head shot.”

Specifically, Taibbi reported:

“Two of the judges interrogated the federal government’s attorney about the coercion of Internet platforms, comparing the situation to a mob racket. ‘You’ve got a nice social media company there, sure would be a shame if something happened to it,’ said one.

“Another of the judges compared communications from White House official Rob Flaherty to Facebook by saying it sounded like ‘irate officials’ were demanding Facebook explain why ‘you haven’t done this yet.’

“It’s like, ‘Jump!’ ‘How high?’”

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who took over the case from former Missouri AG Eric Schmitt, shared his own thoughts on the hearing in a series of tweets.

“Today’s oral argument in Missouri v. Biden proved what we’ve known all along: the Biden Administration has shamelessly and relentlessly coerced and colluded with social media platforms to censor free speech,” Bailey wrote.

Among the hearing’s highlights cited by Bailey:

  • “Biden’s lawyer seriously insinuated COVID caused a lot in the world to change, and thus, government censorship is permissible.”
  • “Biden’s lawyer also said that Americans have not been harmed by the vast censorship enterprise emanating from the Biden White House. Every American who has had a post removed or deplatformed would beg to differ.”

As for Biden’s lawyer claiming the administration has “never once threatened social media companies into censoring free speech,” Bailey tweeted, “He must be suffering from memory loss.”

“One of the judges noted that the exchanges between the feds and the social media companies include ‘veiled and not-so-veiled threats’ as the government ‘strongarms’ the tech companies into censoring speech.”

Bailey offered the following tweets as proof of Biden’s censorship coercion of Big Tech:

  • “Joe Biden told reporters that ‘Facebook is killing people’ because they originally refused to silence truthful information about the COVID vaccine.”
  • “(Former Press Secretary) Jen Psaki spouted from the WH podium that social media companies would lose their Section 230 immunity if they didn’t work with the feds to remove disfavored speech.”
  • “White House Digital Director Rob Flaherty told Twitter that ‘if your product is appending misinformation to our tweets that seems like a pretty fundamental issue’ …”

Bailey notes in another tweet that, “Quickly after these interactions, the social media companies’ resistance to censor quickly crumbled.”


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