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September 19, 2023

Team Biden Continues to Fight Free Speech

Still stinging from a lower court’s Independence Day rebuke of its censorship efforts, the administration got temporary relief from the Supreme Court.

It’s no secret that Big Tech has become the Democrats’ favorite speech suppressor — the decider of what can and can’t be said in the electronic town square. As our Nate Jackson noted recently: “One component of [the Left’s] racketeering operation is a communication channel for lackeys in the Biden administration and/or Congress to collude with representatives from social media to determine what ideas and statements are permissible speech.”

Happily, though, that cozy relationship was dealt a blow on Independence Day in a ruling in favor of Republican plaintiffs in Missouri and Louisiana by U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty.

“If the allegations made by Plaintiffs are true,” wrote Doughty in a 155-page trip to the woodshed for the Biden administration, “the present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history. In their attempts to suppress alleged disinformation, the Federal Government, and particularly the Defendants named here, are alleged to have blatantly ignored the First Amendment’s right to free speech.”

That’s about as stern a rebuke as you’ll see from a district judge. Doughty, a Trump appointee, went on to issue a temporary injunction blocking Team Brandon from coordinating with Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to suppress free speech.

This caused a panic on the Left, which couldn’t allow such a righteous ruling to stand. After all, it was speech-suppressing collusion between the FBI and Big Tech that likely allowed Joe Biden to prevail over Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

Accordingly, the Biden administration sought relief through appeal, but they were denied by a three-judge panel that summarized its ruling thusly: “Ultimately, we find the district court did not err in determining that several officials — namely the White House, the surgeon general, the C.D.C. and the F.B.I. — likely coerced or significantly encouraged social media platforms to moderate content, rendering those decisions state actions. In doing so, the officials likely violated the First Amendment.”

Appealing still further, this time to the Supreme Court, the Biden administration finally got the relief it sought — at least temporarily — and from an unlikely source. As Politico reports:

Justice Samuel Alito temporarily paused a lower-court order limiting Biden administration officials from contacting social media firms. Alito’s action followed an emergency filing from the Justice Department Thursday that asked the court to block an earlier injunction previously set to kick in Monday that would make it difficult for officials at the White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the FBI to respond to online posts that pose a danger to public health or safety.

As Politico continues: “Alito granted an administrative stay pausing the underlying injunction issued by U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty from taking effect until Sept. 22. Alito also gave the Republican attorneys general from Louisiana and Missouri — who brought the case against the administration — until Sept. 20 to respond.”

In its emergency filing to the Supreme Court, the speech-suppressing Biden Justice Department claimed that the Fifth Circuit Court’s injunction against its collusion with Big Tech would “impose grave and irreparable harms on the government and the public.”

Boo hoo. What about the grave and irreparable harm caused by the trampling of the American people’s First Amendment rights?

“A central dimension of presidential power is the use of the office’s bully pulpit to seek to persuade Americans — and American companies — to act in ways that the president believes would advance the public interest,” wrote Elizabeth Prelogar, Joe Biden’s solicitor general.

We’re big fans of the bully pulpit as a public-address tool of the presidency, but that’s completely different than using it to stifle the speech of others, which is precisely what the Biden administration has been doing. By all means, use the bully pulpit to promote your views, but not to silence opposing views.

Prelogar argued that the social media platforms themselves, and not the White House, ultimately made the decisions about what to censor, but this claim, while perhaps true on its face, doesn’t pass the giggle test.

That’s a nice social media platform ya got there, Twitter. It’d be a shame if something happened to it.

There was a time in this country when folks were free. When we had a right to communicate ideas and information that weren’t necessarily pre-approved by our government. There was a time.

In the weeks and months ahead, the Supreme Court will be tasked with deciding the lengths to which the government can go in its desire to suppress speech it doesn’t like. In the meantime, Justice Alito’s brief stay is just that — a brief stay. Ultimately, we hope and expect the Supreme Court to render a landmark decision against the government and in support of the First Amendment.

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