Judge: States Will Get ‘Expedited Discovery’ On Biden Admin Collusion With Big Tech To Censor Conservatives
Missouri AG Eric Schmitt: “No one has had the chance to look under the hood before – now we do.”
There has been much public evidence that the Biden administration has pressured large social media and tech companies to censor political opponents under the guise of designating such speech “disinformation” or “misinformation.”
On May 5, 2022, the states of Missouri and Louisiana filed a Complaint alleging that such collusion violated, among other things, its citizens first amendment rights. The defendants included not only senior administration officials, but also the head of the administrations planned and then disbanded ministry of information, Nina Jankowicz [see featured image].
The Complaint asserted:
2. 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.” Biden v. Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia Univ., 141 S. Ct. 1220, 1226 (2021) (Thomas, J., concurring). “The government cannot accomplish through threats of adverse government action what the Constitution prohibits it from doing directly.” Id.
3. That is exactly what has occurred over the past several years, beginning with express and implied threats from government officials and culminating in the Biden Administration’s open and explicit censorship programs. Having threatened and cajoled social-media platforms for years to censor viewpoints and speakers disfavored by the Left, senior government officials in the Executive Branch have moved into a phase of open collusion with social-media companies to suppress disfavored speakers, viewpoints, and content on social-media platforms under the Orwellian guise of halting so-called “disinformation,” “misinformation,” and “malinformation.”
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6. As a direct result of these actions, there has been an unprecedented rise of censorship and suppression of free speech—including core political speech—on social-media platforms. Not just fringe views, but perfectly legitimate, responsible viewpoints and speakers have been unlawfully and unconstitutionally silenced in the modern public square. These actions gravely threaten the fundamental right of free speech and free discourse for virtually all citizens in Missouri, Louisiana, and America, both on social media and elsewhere.
On June 14, the States filed a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction with extensive affidavit evidence:
The Memorandum of Law supporting the motion asserted:
If the White House spokesperson stood at her podium and repeatedly demanded that private booksellers burn certain books that the federal government disfavors, or else face grave legal consequences, everyone would see the First Amendment problem. If federal officials sat in on the editorial board meetings of the New York Times and told them what stories they should run if they want to avoid legal problems, everyone would see the First Amendment problem.
This case is worse than these hypotheticals. Here are the words of Jen Psaki, then-White House spokesperson: “We are in regular touch with these social media platforms, and those engagements typically happen through members of our senior staff…. We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation…. We engage with them regularly and they certainly understand what our asks are.” Glenn Decl. Ex. 30, at 9-11 (emphasis added) (Ex. A). The government’s “problematic posts,” id., are those that supposedly contain “disinformation and misinformation, especially related to COVID-19, vaccinations, and elections.” Glenn Decl., Ex. 29, at 15. Along with “members of our senior staff,” Glenn Decl. Ex. 30, at 9, officials at HHS and DHS are coordinating and colluding directly with social-media companies to dictate what Americans can and cannot say on their social-media accounts—and doing so under the everpresent threat of grave legal consequences to those companies if they do not comply….
There is compelling evidence that federal officials, including Defendants here, have adopted an aggressive program to coordinate with private social-media companies to censor and suppress disfavored speech on social media. This is ultra vires and violates the First Amendment.
The States also sought expedited discovery pending a future hearing on the motion for an injunction, including the ability to serve subpoenas on the social media and big tech companies and to take depositions as who communications with government officials.
Today the Court granded the Motion for Expedited Discovery. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt tweeted:
BREAKING: A federal court granted our request for discovery & documents from top ranking Biden officials & social media companies to get to the bottom of their collusion to suppress & censor free speech.
No one has had the chance to look under the hood before – now we do.
From the Judge’s Order:
In the Complaint, Plaintiff States set forth examples of suppression of free speech, which include:
1. The Hunter Biden laptop story prior to the 2020 Presidential election;
2. Speech about the lab-leak theory of COVID-19’s origin;
3. Speech about the efficiency of masks and COVID-19 lockdowns; and
4. Speech about election integrity and the security of voting by mail.
Additionally, the Complaint sets forth actions by specific Government Defendants that have been taken to suppress free speech. Plaintiff States allege that free speech is the bedrock of American liberty, and Government Defendants are in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in attempting to suppress free speech by labeling the speech as “misinformation.”
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In the Motion for Expedited Preliminary Injunction-Related Discovery, Plaintiff States ask for the following expedited discovery:
(1) Targeted interrogatories and document requests to Government Defendants requesting the identities of federal officials who have or are communicating with social-media platforms about disinformation, misinformation, malinformation, or any form of censorship or suppression of online speech;
(2) Targeted interrogatories and document requests to Government Defendants requesting the nature and content of such federal officials’ communications with such socialmedia platforms, including both currently known and unknown federal officials;
(3) Serve third-party subpoenas on a limited number of major social-media platforms seeking similar information about the identity of federal officials who communicate with them, and the nature and content of those communications; …
(6) After any objections are resolved by the Court, Plaintiff States are to notify Government Defendants, based upon discovery responses received, whether Plaintiff States seeks to take any depositions; ….
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At this point, Plaintiff States seek to issue interrogatories and document requests to Government Defendants; and to serve third party subpoenas on a limited number of social media platforms. Whether depositions will be taken will be addressed later. Plaintiff States seek identity of federal officials communicating with these social media platforms including the nature and content of those communications. Plaintiff States seek similar information from the social media platforms. This is a complicated case The proposed discovery requests are targeted to the specific allegations of Plaintiff States’ Complaint. The requests are reasonable….
The purpose of the proposed expedited discovery is to gain additional evidence to prove the allegations of Missouri and Louisiana for purposes of the pending Motion for Preliminary Injunction. The proposed discovery is tailored to the allegations Plaintiff States seek to prove and is not a “fishing expedition.” ….
Therefore, this Court believes that Missouri and Louisiana have shown good cause for expedited preliminary injunction discovery.
The Court set a more relaxed timeline for the discovery to take place, but pretty much gave the States everything they wanted.
So within a few months, we should know what Missouri and Louisiana find under the hood of the Biden administration’s collusion with the big social media and tech companies.DONATE
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