Everyone more or less understands that government cannot censor private speech. The First Amendment says so, and we all get that. And it’s also understood that the First Amendment doesn’t usually apply to non-government restrictions on speech imposed by private entities.
But what happens when the government gets into bed with private companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to “encourage” them to censor news and viewpoints they mutually – and ideologically – consider “misinformation” and “disinformation,” including biblical viewpoints concerning marriage, sexuality, and the value of male and female.
That question is at the heart of a new lawsuit filed against several federal officials by the states of Missouri and Louisiana in a federal court in Louisiana.
The lawsuit names the following defendants acting in their official capacity: President Joe Biden; White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki; Surgeon General Vivek Murthy; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its head, Secretary Xavier Becerra; Dr. Anthony Fauci; the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; the Department of Homeland Security and its head, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas; and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and its director, Jen Easterly.
One additional defendant named in the lawsuit is Nina Jankowicz, the new Department of Homeland Security director of what that agency is calling its “Disinformation Governance Board,” which conservatives around the country have taken to calling the “Ministry of Truth,” after the George Orwell classic dystopian novel, “1984.”
The federal lawsuit papers open by focusing on the concerns the Founders had with free speech and government power.
“In 1783, George Washington warned that if ‘the Freedom of Speech may be taken away,’ then ‘dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter,’” the complaint reads.
It then immediately jumps to the heart of the speech suppression the states are concerned with.
“A private entity violates the First Amendment ‘if the government coerces or induces it to take action the government itself would not be permitted to do, such as censor expression of a lawful viewpoint.’”
Missouri and Louisiana argue that the federal government has been doing exactly that over the past several years, moving from threatening and cajoling Big Tech to censor news and conservative viewpoints to openly colluding with such platforms to “suppress disfavored speakers, viewpoints and content on social-media platforms under the Orwellian guise of halting so-called ‘disinformation,’ ‘misinformation,’ and ‘malinformation.’”
Christian viewpoints are not specifically mentioned in the lawsuit papers, but they certainly could have been, as outlets such as The Daily Citizen and The Babylon Bee, and even a member of Congress have been suspended from Twitter for expressing biological and scientific truths at odds with the radical gender ideology currently in vogue.
The Attorney General of Missouri, Eric Schmitt, along with his counterpart in Louisiana, Attorney General Jeff Landry, issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit and listed several news stories and perspectives that have been suppressed due to the collusion between the current administration and Big Tech.
“In the lawsuit that Missouri and Louisiana filed today, we allege that government officials in the Biden Administration […] 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,” Schmitt said.
“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,” Landry added. “We are fighting back to ensure the rule of law and prevent the government from unconstitutional banning, chilling, and stifling of speech.”
The lawsuit also alleges that due to the protections and immunities provided to social media companies by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a small number of such companies have turned into a “censorship cartel.” Because liberal members of Congress and the administration have threatened this cartel with loss of their Section 230 immunity unless they censor conservative views, the lawsuit contends, the social media companies were initially coerced into censoring what the government itself could not.
But, the states argue, the relationship between those social media companies and the federal government has evolved from coercion to collusion, based on a shared ideology.
“[The Defendants] have now moved into a phase of open collusion with the threatened companies, cooperating with them directly to censor speech, speakers, and viewpoints that Defendants disfavor,” the lawsuit contends.
The states are asking the court to declare the actions of the defendants to be in violation of the First Amendment, and to block any official actions they and their agencies have taken that exceeded their statutory authority, and to issue injunctions prohibiting the administrative agencies and their officials from engaging in such unlawful conduct.
The case is Missouri v. Biden.
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