JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Today, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry filed suit against President Biden and other top-ranking government officials for allegedly working with social media giants such as Meta, Twitter, and YouTube to censor and suppress free speech, including truthful information, related to COVID-19, election integrity, and other topics, under the guise of combating “misinformation.”
“Freedom of speech is paramount to a healthy society and discourse, debate, and discussion have been the cornerstone of our country since the Founders codified that right in the Bill of Rights. Missourians and Americans use social media platforms, which are now ubiquitous in our modern society, to discuss topics like the efficacy of masks and the veracity of the lab-leak theory. In direct contravention to the First Amendment and freedom of speech, 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,’” said Attorney General Schmitt. “In the lawsuit that Missouri and Louisiana filed today, we allege that government officials in the Biden Administration, including President Biden, Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, and others colluded with social media companies like Meta, Twitter, and Youtube to remove truthful information related to the lab-leak theory, the efficacy of masks, election integrity, and more. I will not stand idly by while the Biden Administration attempts to trample on the First Amendment rights of Missourians and Americans.”
“Big Tech has become an extension of Biden’s Big Government, and neither are protecting the freedoms of Americans; rather, they are suppressing truth and demonizing those who think differently,” said Attorney General Landry. “Ripped from the playbook of Stalin and his ilk, Biden has been colluding with Big Tech to censor free speech and propagandize the masses. We are fighting back to ensure the rule of law and prevent the government from unconstitutional banning, chilling, and stifling of speech.”
The lawsuit alleges that the Biden Administration – more specifically President Biden, Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s “Disinformation Governance Board” Nina Jankowicz, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and others – both pressured and colluded with social media giants Meta, Twitter, and Youtube to censor free speech in the name of combating so-called “disinformation” and “misinformation,” which led to the suppression and censorship of truthful information on several topics, including COVID-19.
The lawsuit provides several examples of truthful information that was censored by social media companies that were admitted at a later date to be truthful or credible, including:
- The Hunter Biden Laptop Story: As the lawsuit notes, the New York Postpublished a story in October of 2020 detailing the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop that was abandoned in a Delaware computer repair shop, which included compromising pictures and emails. Twitter locked the New York Post’s main Twitter account and blocked other users from publishing the link to the story as it was “potentially harmful.” Now, 17 months later, the New York Times and the Washington Post have both quietly published stories that acknowledge the truth and veracity of the New York Post’s original reporting.
- The Lab Leak Theory: The lawsuit also cites Facebook’s censorship of posts that theorized that COVID-19 could have been leaked accidentally from a biotech lab in Wuhan, China. The suit 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.” Facebook then expanded its content moderation to censor posts that made claims that COVID-19 was lab or man-made. Only after a large number of major media outlets confirmed that the lab-leak theory was a possibility did Facebook stop censoring user posts related to the lab-leak theory.
- The Efficacy of Masks: The lawsuit notes, Twitter’s “COVID-19 misleading information policy,” as of December 2021, noted that Twitter will censor (label or remove) speech claiming that “face masks … do not work to reduce transmission or to protect against COVID-19,” among many other restrictions. Other platforms had similar policies. Both Senator Rand Paul and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis were censored by Youtube for questioning the efficacy of masks. Further, the lawsuit cites a New York Post article that states, “When Scott Atlas, a member of the Trump White House’s coronavirus task force, questioned the efficacy of masks last year, Twitter removed his tweet.” Now, a growing body of science shows that masks, especially cloth masks, are ineffective at stopping the spread of COVID-19, and can impose negative impacts on children.
The lawsuit demonstrates how the Biden Administration has colluded with big tech companies to censor and suppress speech. This includes threats on the campaign trail, and now in office, directly working with executives and employees of big tech companies.
The lawsuit states, “For example, on January 17, 2020, then-candidate Biden stated, in an interview with the New York Times editorial board, that Section 230 of the CDA should be ‘revoked’ because social-media companies like Facebook did not do enough to censor supposedly false information… Candidate Biden also suggested that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg should be subject to civil liability and even criminal prosecution for not censoring enough political speech.”
In a July 2021 press briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy both argued that Facebook and other social media platforms should do more to combat health “misinformation.” The lawsuit states, “Surgeon General Murthy also stated that ‘we’re saying we expect more from our technology companies. …. We’re asking them to monitor misinformation more closely. We’re asking them to consistently take action against misinformation super-spreaders on their platforms.’” Further, “At the same press briefing, after the Surgeon General spoke, Defendant Psaki stated: ‘[W]e 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, given, as Dr. Murthy conveyed, this is a big issue of misinformation, specifically on the pandemic.’ She added, ‘We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.’”
In response, Facebook stated that it was working with government officials to tackle “misinformation.” According to the lawsuit, “A Facebook spokesperson said the company has partnered with government experts, health authorities and researchers to take ‘aggressive action against misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines to protect public health.’”
In a February 2022 press conference, Psaki was asked if she was satisfied with Spotify’s decision to put advisory warnings on Joe Rogan’s podcast, to which Psaki responded, “[O]ur hope is that all major tech platforms … be vigilant to ensure the American people have access to accurate information on something as significant as COVID-19. So, this disclaimer – it’s a positive step. But we want every platform to continue doing more to call out … mis- and disinformation while also uplifting accurate information.”
The Biden Administration’s suppression of free speech doesn’t stop with the Press Secretary or the Surgeon General, however. The lawsuit also states, “For example, on May 3, 2021, it was reported that DHS intended to ‘partner with private firms’ to monitor disfavored speech online.”
Dr. Fauci, who as director of the NIAID funded risky “gain of function” research, was exchanging emails with Mark Zuckerberg regarding “public messaging and the dissemination of COVID-19 information on social-media.” In a March 15, 2020 email, Zuckerberg proposed to coordinate with Fauci to “make sure people can get authoritative information from reliable sources” and proposed including a video message from Fauci because, “people trust and want to hear from experts.”
The Department of Homeland Security also recently announced the creation of a “Disinformation Governance Board” within DHS to combat “disinformation” and “misinformation.” Nina Jankowicz is the executive director of the newly created board and according to the lawsuit, “Jankowicz has called for more aggressive censorship of election-related speech by social-media platforms, and has implied that social-media censorship of election-related speech should never relent or be reduced…” Missouri Attorney General Schmitt recently decried the creation of this “Orwellian” board in a letter.
The lawsuit alleges that the federal government violated Missourians’, Louisianans’ and Americans’ First Amendment rights in colluding with social media companies to censor and suppress freedom of speech: “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. 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.”
The lawsuit incorporates four counts: (1) Violation of the First Amendment, (2) Action in Excess of Statutory Authority, and (3) Administrative Procedure Act Violations by HHS officials, and (4) Administrative Procedure Act violations by DHS officials.
The full lawsuit can be found here: https://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/press-releases/mo-la-v-biden-filed-petition.pdf?sfvrsn=3d20bca5_2.
By AG Schmitt