Two US States Sue Biden Admin Over Pressure, Collusion With Big Tech to Censor Information - Report
The events of the past years added a new dimension to the heated debates over misinformation in the United States, which are expected to become more intense amid the approaching midterm elections.
Two US states, led by Republicans, initiated legal action on Thursday against the Biden administration, accusing the President, White House press secretary Jen Psaki, White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci and other staffers of colluding with major social platforms so as to shape the coverage of several controversial topics, including Hunter Biden’s laptop story, the origins of COVID-19 and the security of voting by mail during the pandemic.
The lawsuit was filled by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry in US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Fox News reported
, citing obtained court papers.
Among other defendants is Nina Jankowicz, recently appointed as the head of the US Department of Homeland Security’s Disinformation Governance Board, which has already been dubbed as the “Ministry of Truth” and received criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, mainly for Jankowicz’s reputation. Jankowicz at one time supported Hillary Clinton's disinformation that attempted to tie Trump with Russian special services. She has also earlier tried to discredit the New York Post’s report regarding Hunter Biden's laptop, saying it should be seen as “a product of the Trump campaign.”
The filing also names DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Jen Easterly.
The policies the current administration adopted were said to violate the constitutional rights of free speech in “one of its greatest assaults by federal government officials in the Nation’s history.”
The lawsuit claims that the officials “coerced, threatened, and pressured social media platforms” such as Meta, Twitter and YouTube “to censor disfavored speakers and viewpoints by using threats of adverse government action.”
“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,’” the documents say.
The lawsuit claims that the Biden administration affected how Hunter Biden's laptop scandal was covered in Twitter and Facebook, where the option to share the New York Post publication was banned. Shortly before the presidential election, Twitter blocked the newspaper’s account. Last month, some other mass media outlets finally acknowledged the authenticity of the compromising evidence and the non-involvement of any special services in the laptop story.
Republicans also pointed to the alleged censoring of publications mentioning the theory that claims the novel coronavirus was leaked from the Wuhan laboratory. Fauci was said to launch a campaign to “discredit” the theory, while at the same time was “exchanging emails with Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, regarding the control and dissemination of COVID-19 information.” The campaign reportedly lasted till major media outlets “began to report on the viability of the theory.”
The lawsuit also mentioned YouTube's censorship of conservative leaders Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for questioning the effectiveness of wearing cloth masks during the pandemic.
Another cited example was a June 2021 press briefing with White House press secretary Jen Psaki and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, during which Biden administration officials said that social networks should be doing more to fight “misinformation” about COVID-19.
“We’re saying we expect more from our technology companies,” Murthy reportedly said during the briefing. “We’re asking them to monitor misinformation more closely. We’re asking them to consistently take action against misinformation super-spreaders on their platforms.”
In addition, the attorneys highlighted the way social media covered the security of voting by mail in the most recent presidential election, saying the “platforms aggressively censored core political speech by then-President Trump and the Trump campaign raising concerns about the security of voting by mail in the run-up to the November 2020 presidential election.”
The attorneys general are asking the court to find that the Biden administration's policies violate the First Amendment, claiming that the DHS and HHS officials' conduct violates the Administrative Procedure Act to “hold unlawful and set aside final agency actions” that they described as abuses of power, arbitrary and capricious.
Republican efforts against the information policy of the current administration have been made at various levels. On Thursday, Nina Jankowicz was asked by GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee to appear on the House floor “for a briefing with the Committee” about her past comments and policies planned for the Disinformation Board. Republicans while questioning her appointment to lead the council said it “gives rise to considerable concerns about its effect on Americans’ fundamental civil liberties.”
Republicans also invited DHS chief Alejandro Mayorkas to speak about the board before a congressional hearing on May, 5, where Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, called the US government the main disseminator of fake news.
“if you are going to go around saying that you're the arbiter of information and of disinformation, I think you have no clue. And you don't have the perspective of history knowing that disinformation, the largest progenitor of disinformation in our history, has probably been the US government,” Paul said.
Meanwhile, the Media Research Center (MRC), a media watchdog group, reported last month that it detected more than 600 cases
of major tech companies censoring criticism of President Biden since March 2020.