- Thursday, July 6, 2023

President Biden and the people around him are among the worst enemies of free speech in American history. And instead of applauding a federal court ruling that reined in the malfeasance, the media are siding with the censors against the right to free expression.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty said the Biden administration must stop pressuring social media companies to police the speech of American citizens.

He granted a preliminary injunction in an ongoing case brought by Missouri and Louisiana that also names Twitter, Meta (the parent company of Facebook) and Google, and said the facts could represent “the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history.”

That the injunction was issued on July Fourth was highly symbolic. There was a coordinated and far-reaching government effort to suppress free expression, and it was halted on Independence Day, the anniversary of this nation’s rejection of tyranny.

The facts are disturbing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden administration decided that free speech was dangerous and engaged in censorship by proxy.

Plenty of people have written about this before, including me, but former White House press secretary Jen Psaki gave away the game two years ago when she admitted that the administration routinely worked with social media giants to silence certain people they found objectionable.

“Within the surgeon general’s office, we’re flagging posts for Facebook that spread disinformation,” Ms. Psaki said in July 2021.

For the longest time, when conservatives decried censorship on social media, leftists would counter that they’re all private companies and can do what they want.

That would be true, of course, if the government weren’t involved. But it clearly was.

“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,’” Judge Doughty wrote in his injunction, invoking the propaganda agency from “1984,” George Orwell’s dystopian novel.

If you care about the principle of free speech, the 155-page opinion that accompanied the injunction reads like a horror story. It lists many times when federal officials issued directives to social media companies to censor posts and accounts, and it shows that the platforms complied with the demands.

And the White House made clear that it viewed the private companies as subservient to the federal government.

“We are gravely concerned that your service is one of the top drivers of vaccine hesitancy — period,” former Biden digital director Rob Flaherty wrote in an email to Facebook, adding that “we want to know that you’re trying, we want to know how we can help, and we want to know that you’re not playing a shell game with us when we ask you what is going on.”

White House officials told social media employees such things as:

“You are hiding the ball.”

“Cannot stress the degree to which this needs to be resolved immediately. Please remove this account immediately.”

“I want an answer on what happened here and I want it today.”

And the opinion is full of examples of Big Tech functionaries groveling before their federal masters, promising to do their bidding, and pledging to do it better and faster.

“We obviously have work to do to gain your trust,” a Facebook employee wrote to the White House. “I’ll continue to do it to the best of my ability, and I’ll expect you to hold me accountable.”

The judge noted that it was almost always conservative speech that was censored, and he destroyed any last remaining shreds of the “private companies can do what they want” argument when he wrote that “when the government has so involved itself in the private party’s conduct, it cannot claim the conduct occurred as a result of private choice.”

You’d think that the news media would come to the defense of the First Amendment since that’s what protects them from government interference as well, but you’d be wrong.

The Washington Post lamented that the ruling would “sideline federal government officials” who had become “key contributors” in efforts to prevent foreign online interference in the 2024 elections.

The New York Times tweeted that it “could curtail efforts to fight disinformation.”

When our media are joining hands with the censors, you know something is seriously wrong. The people with power are substituting their own judgment for the Constitution because they think they know what’s best for the rest of us.

It gets even scarier if you think about how that justification could be used to misuse government authority in other ways.

In this case, we now know there was a premeditated and far-reaching plan to systematically deny constitutional rights to American citizens based on political viewpoints.

The questions must now be asked: When did Mr. Biden authorize the plan, and did it violate his oath of office?

• Tim Murtaugh is a Washington Times columnist and vice president for communication strategy at National Public Affairs, a political consulting firm.

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