In a landmark decision that should have all Americans cheering, a Louisiana federal court recently upheld their First Amendment right to speak without being censored by the government. Judge Terry Doughty said the case, Missouri v. Biden, “arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history.”
Judge Doughty issued a preliminary injunction forbidding numerous federal agencies, including the FBI, the Justice Department, and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as many individuals within the executive branch like White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, from communicating or meeting with: “[S]ocial-media companies for the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech posted on social-media platforms.”
The injunction bans the feds from working with outside groups such as the Stanford Internet Observatory that induce social-media companies to suppress and delete “protected free speech.” And it even prevents the government from “notifying social-media companies to Be on The Lookout (‘BOLO’) for postings containing protected free speech.”
A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a temporary stay of Judge Doughty’s injunction while the case is on appeal before the 5th Circuit, and said the appeal will be heard on an expedited basis.
Judge Doughty’s 155-page opinion has page after page after page detailing the extensive meetings, emails, and other communications between government officials badgering and threatening social-media executives to censor and close accounts. Platforms like Facebook were actually providing their government handlers with reports on how they were carrying out the government’s directed censorship.
The FBI’s continued claim that it was only concerned with “disinformation” by foreign countries is directly contradicted by the evidence in the case. Judge Doughty concluded that the “FBI made no attempt to distinguish whether those reports of election disinformation were American or foreign.” And it is obvious from the facts that the many government officials and agencies involved were only concerned with censoring any views, opinions, and claims – foreign or domestic – that disagreed with, or criticized their (and the government’s) political, social, and medical orthodoxy on multiple issues.
They were engaging in viewpoint discrimination, a direct and blatant violation of the First Amendment, and according to Doughty, “virtually all of the free speech suppressed was ‘conservative’ free speech.” While the First Amendment normally only applies to the government and not private parties like Twitter and Facebook, these social-media platforms essentially became agents of the government. Through them, the government used its “coercive power or exercised such significant encouragement that the private parties’ choice [to censor] must be deemed to be that of the government.”
A refresher on the sordid history of the federal government’s free speech abuses, and specifically the FBI’s, is in order. The FBI engaged in a nefarious campaign against Martin Luther King, Jr., and other leaders of civil rights organizations that included illegal wiretaps and informants. Why?
Because the FBI pinned them as radicals whose activities and misinformation were a security threat, with J. Edgar Hoover labeling King as the “most notorious liar in the country.”
But only as they determine what is the “truth.” That is the road to tyranny.
Abby Carr is a member of Heritage’s Young Leaders Program.