The Biden administration’s formation of a “disinformation” board has sparked momentum for two states to sue the U.S. government, alleging pressure and collusion with Big Tech censorship of political content that challenges the government line.
“If we would’ve tried to bring this lawsuit two or three months ago, I think they would’ve laughed us out of court,” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry told The Daily Signal in a phone interview about the new Disinformation Governance Board inside the Department of Homeland Security.
“People are really starting to raise their eyebrows and it’s mostly because of this disinformation branch,” Landry said. “In other words, the government and Big Tech have become basically brazen in the face of the American people, saying, ‘We are going to give you the information that we deem you need.’”
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt joined Louisiana’s Landry last week in filing a federal lawsuit that alleges top-ranking government officials worked with social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to censor free speech and truthful information regarding COVID-19, election reforms, and other matters.
The two states’ lawsuit names President Joe Biden, White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Nina Jankowicz, director of the Disinformation Governance Board, among other administration officials.
“When the government strong-arms, or basically forces, a company to do something that it would be unconstitutional for them to do, then basically what happens is that those companies then become an arm of the government,” Landry told The Daily Signal.
Collusion with Big Tech Censorship
Among the points in the 86-page complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, are:
- A New York Post story in October 2020 about Hunter Biden’s laptop that revealed disparaging information about the son of Joe Biden, then the Democrats’ nominee for president in the Nov. 3 election. Twitter blocked the Post’s account and blocked all references to the story as “potentially harmful.” In recent weeks, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and most other media outlets have acknowledged the authenticity of the laptop and its contents.
- The theory of a lab leak in China as the potential origin of the COVID-19 pandemic. The legal complaint states, “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 … 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.”
- On the efficacy of masks against COVID-19, the lawsuit says Twitter labeled or removed content saying that “face masks … do not work to reduce transmission or to protect against COVID-19.” YouTube removed videos of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, also a Republican, questioning the efficacy of masks. The lawsuit says a growing body of science shows masks are ineffective.
- In July 2021, White House press secretary Jen Psaki and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy argued that social media platforms should combat health “misinformation.” Murthy said, “We’re saying we expect more from our technology companies. …. We’re asking them to consistently take action against misinformation super-spreaders on their platforms.” At the same press conference, Psaki said, “We are in regular touch with these social media platforms, and those engagements typically happen through members of our senior staff, but also members of our COVID-19 team … We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.”
Fauci is both the chief medical adviser to the president and the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The lawsuit by Louisiana and Missouri names as defendants Biden, Jankowicz, Psaki, Murthy, and Fauci as well as Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas; Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra; and Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
“As alleged further herein, Defendants have coerced, threatened, and pressured social-media platforms to censor disfavored speakers and viewpoints by using threats of adverse government action,” the two states’ lawsuit says, adding:
“As alleged further herein, 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. These actions violate the First Amendment.”
In addition, the lawsuit alleges action in excess of statutory authority and violations of the Administrative Procedure Act by both HHS and DHS officials.
Landry said the lawsuit would focus on both public information but also explore nonpublic information.
“What’s amazing is they’ve been pretty brazen. What Psaki has done, Jen has gone out there and said it, basically, that they’ve worked with some of the Big Tech companies in order to censor the information,” Landry said, adding:
We’re going to use the public statements in order to go after the discovery of exactly what you’re looking at. I can’t wait. I cannot wait to lift the hood of that vehicle and see what’s underneath it. I can tell you, it’ll be extremely interesting. And again, the interesting part is that all of the information and the communication between the government and Big Tech is certainly a matter of, it should be a matter of, public record.
Americans regularly use social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, now ubiquitous in society, to discuss topics such as public health, Missouri’s Schmitt said in a formal statement.
“In direct contravention to the First Amendment and freedom of speech,” Schmitt said, “the Biden administration has been engaged in a pernicious campaign to both pressure social media giants to censor and suppress speech and work directly with those platforms to achieve that censorship in a misguided and Orwellian campaign against ‘misinformation.’”