Two Republican-led states have accused the feds of working with social media companies to ‘censor free speech’
White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci and other senior officials are set to be sworn in in a lawsuit claiming the government worked alongside social media platforms to create a “Massive censorship enterprise” throughout the Covid-19 epidemic.
In a Friday ruling, Judge Terry Doughty granted a joint request by the Missouri and Louisiana attorneys general to compel several current and former officials to testify in the lawsuit, including Fauci, the former House press secretary. Blanche Jen Psaki, White House Director of Digital Strategy Rob Flaherty, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, and two high-level figures from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
“After finding documentation of a collusive relationship between the [Joe] Biden administration and social media companies to censor free speech, we immediately filed a motion to swear in these officials,” Missouri AG Eric Schmitt said in a statement. “It is high time to shine a light on this censorship enterprise and force these officials to come clean with the American people, and this decision will allow us to do that. We will continue to push for the truth.
Although the defense has insisted that senior officials can only be called to testify about their actions in office under “extraordinary circumstances” Judge Doughty said the staff in question met that standard. He added that the two GOP-led states “proved that Dr. Fauci had personal knowledge of the issue of social media censorship as it relates to Covid-19”, ordering him to cooperate with a deposition.
The other officials’ impeachment requests were granted on similar grounds, as the judge found that all either had direct meetings with social media companies about the alleged censorship or had inside knowledge of those discussions.
Jen Easterly, who heads DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), was also subpoenaed to testify. She played a “Central role” in “report misinformation to social media companies for censorship”, argued the plaintiffs, describing the cyber agency as the “nerve center” of “the federal government’s efforts to censor social media users”. The same official was allegedly involved in the now-defunct DHS “Disinformation Governance Council” – dubbed the “Ministry of Truth” by critics – which allegedly created a new mechanism to facilitate cooperation between the White House and social media sites.
Originally filed last May by Schmitt and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, the lawsuit claims the federal government encouraged online platforms to censor, suppress or ban certain speech about the pandemic, including discussion of the “lab leak theory on the origin of Covid-19”, as well as questions about the effectiveness of face masks, vaccines or lockdown policies, among others. Both prosecutors relied heavily on documents obtained through subpoenas from YouTube, Twitter and Facebook parent company Meta, which detail regular communications between government and social media sites.
The White House, as well as the eight officials subpoenaed to testify, have yet to comment on Friday’s decision. Depositions must take place within 30 days of the order, although it remains unclear whether the defense intends to appeal the ruling.