Congressional Republicans have joined a lawsuit against the Biden administration’s censorship-by-proxy scheme that involved pressuring social media companies to crack down on free speech.
Twelve GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government filed an amicus brief (pdf) late Monday in the case of Missouri v. Biden, court filings show.
The filing came as part of a flurry of legal activity in Missouri’s censorship-by-proxy lawsuit against President Joe Biden and several federal agencies, which involved a handful of other amicus brief filings on Aug. 7.
These included briefs from the Alliance Defending Freedom (pdf), Center for American Liberty (pdf), and a handful of states (pdf) like Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Carolina.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who chairs the Weaponization subcommittee, said in a statement obtained by The Epoch Times that the panel’s investigation into the federal government’s censorship-by-proxy scheme “has uncovered smoking gun documents showing how Big Tech and Big Government worked together to stifle free speech online.”
The amicus briefs call the court’s attention to the new “smoking gun” findings referred to by Mr. Jordan, while putting forward arguments on why the court should block the government from any further collusive behavior with big tech companies to silence or censor constitutionally protected speech and political expression.
The Weaponization subcommittee recently obtained a cache of damning files documenting the extent of the government’s collusion with Facebook to crack down on speech protected under the First Amendment.
“We know through the Facebook Files that the Biden Administration directed Big Tech companies to censor speech the government disagreed with, and launched a pressure campaign when companies did not comply with these censorship orders quickly enough,” Mr. Jordan said.
In a an earlier thread on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, announcing the release of what Mr. Jordan dubbed “the Facebook files,” the Republican lawmaker said that smoking gun evidence had been found proving the Biden administration unconstitutionally pressured social media companies to censor American’s free speech.
“Never-before-released internal documents subpoenaed by the Judiciary Committee PROVE that Facebook and Instagram censored posts and changed their content moderation policies because of unconstitutional pressure from the Biden White House,” Mr. Jordan wrote on Twitter.
The documents were produced after the subcommittee announced it would vote to hold Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in contempt for defying requests for internal documents related to the Biden administration’s pressure to censor speech online.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) told The Epoch Times in an earlier statement that it would not comment on pending litigation.
One Of The ‘Greatest Assaults’ On Freedom of Speech
Republican attorneys general in Louisiana and Missouri sued Mr. Biden and several government agencies in May 2022, accusing them of pushing social media companies to censor posts and take down accounts in what their complaint (pdf) alleged was one of the “greatest assaults” on freedom of speech by federal officials in the history of the United States.
Later, judge Terry A. Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana sided with the plaintiffs on July 4 when he issued a historic injunction (pdf) that barred government agencies from contacting or working with big tech companies to censor posts on social media.
In his decision, Judge Doughty wrote that there was “substantial evidence” of a far-reaching censorship campaign and that this evidence “depicts an almost dystopian scenario.”
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, a period perhaps best characterized by widespread doubt and uncertainty, the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth,’” the judge wrote.
A White House official who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity commented on the injunction.
“This administration has promoted responsible actions to protect public health, safety, and security when confronted by challenges like a deadly pandemic and foreign attacks on our elections,” said the official. “Our consistent view remains that social media platforms have a critical responsibility to take account of the effects their platforms are having on the American people, but make independent choices about the information they present.”
The preliminary injunction was seen as a win by the Republican attorneys general, with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry telling The Epoch Times’ “American Thought Leaders” in an interview following the ruling that “this could be arguably one of the most important First Amendment cases in modern history.”
“This is basically one of the most massive undertakings of the federal government to limit American speech in the history of our country,” Mr. Landry said at the time. “The things that we uncovered in this case should be both shocking, appalling, and concerning for all Americans.”
Biden Admin Appeals
The Biden administration quickly appealed the injunction, which led a three-judge panel for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to issue a decision on July 14 granting the government’s request to put the censorship-by-proxy ban on hold.
The judges indicated in their decision that a “temporary administrative stay” would be put in place on Judge Doughty’s ruling until the case is referred to a different appeals panel, which would deliberate on the merits of the injunction that barred federal agencies from pressuring social media companies to censor free speech.
At the time, the DOJ told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that it would not comment on pending litigation.
In its appeal, the Biden administration argued that the government faced “irreparable harm” for each day that the injunction remained in effect as it was purportedly so broad as to block federal agencies from engaging with social media companies for legitimate and lawful reasons like fighting crime.
On July 10, Judge Doughty denied the DOJ’s request to stay his earlier ruling, rejecting the Biden administration’s argument that the order could put a damper on law enforcement activity online.
“Although this Preliminary Injunction involves numerous agencies, it is not as broad as it appears,” Judge Doughty wrote on July 10. “It only prohibits something the Defendants have no legal right to do—contacting social 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.”
Judge Doughty’s initial preliminary injunction featured an explicit carveout allowing federal agencies to interact with social media companies regarding criminal activity, national security threats, and criminal efforts to sway elections.
The judge further wrote that Republican attorneys general who brought the suit are most likely going to prevail in proving that federal agencies and officials “significantly encouraged,” “coerced,” or “jointly participated” in suppressing social media posts that included information critical of COVID-19 vaccines or questioned the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
In response to the July 10 denial of the Biden administration’s motion for a stay on Judge Doughty’s injunction, lawyers for the DOJ filed an emergency stay of the injunction at the 5th U.S. District Court of Appeals, leading to the appeals court’s decision to pause the social media contact ban.
The appeals court ruling did not elaborate on the rationale for granting the administrative stay against Judge Doughty’s initial injunction.