Twitter in October 2020 banning any re-tweet of the New York Post’s reporting on the Hunter Biden laptop, and Facebook suppressing dissemination of the same story. But after Biden took office the examples are legion.One after another, people who spread information unfavorable to the Biden family, or to Biden Administration policies, get banned or suppressed on social media. It actually started even before Biden got elected, with
To name just a few: James O’Keefe of Project Veritas (pursuing the Ashley Biden diary story) was banned by Twitter in April 2021; noted climate and Covid vaccine skeptic Tony Heller got repeatedly suspended from Twitter in 2021; Covid vaccine skeptic Alex Berenson was banned by Twitter in August 2021; in April 2022 Twitter banned ads that it deemed “climate change propaganda,” which it identified based on their “contradicting” the “scientific consensus”; in July 2022 Gregory Wrightstone — Executive Director of the CO2 Coalition — got permanently banned from LinkedIn for disseminating charts that were based on data used by the IPCC. There are many, many more such examples.
Your first reaction might be, this isn’t right, but these social media companies are private actors, not subject to the First Amendment, so they are allowed to do this. And that would be true if they were acting on their own. But gradually it has been coming out that they are not acting on their own. There is a pervasive pressure campaign from the government to get the social media giants to ban the disfavored speech of critics of the Biden family and Biden Administration, or maybe of Democratic Party positions more generally.
In a previous post on August 27 I reported on the interview by Joe Rogan of Mark Zuckerberg on August 25. In that interview, Zuckerberg revealed to Rogan that, just before the Hunter Biden laptop story surfaced, the FBI had approached Facebook and said, in Zuckerberg’s words: “[Y]ou should be on high alert, there was, we thought that there was a lot of Russian propaganda in the 2016 election, and we have it on notice that basically there is about to be some kind of dump of, that’s similar to that, so just be vigilant.”
And then there is the story of the ban of Alex Berenson from Twitter, that took effect in August 2021. Berenson sued Twitter after getting banned, and has recently settled and been re-instated. But in the meantime Berenson got substantial discovery from Twitter, including on the subject of the pressure the government brought to bear to get Berenson suspended. Berenson has written a full account at his Substack site, dated August 12. Excerpts:
Biden Administration officials asked Twitter to ban me because of my tweets questioning the Covid vaccines, even as company employees believed I had followed Twitter’s rules, internal Twitter communications reveal. In a White House meeting in April 2021, four months before Twitter suspended my account, the company faced “one really tough question about why Alex Berenson hasn’t been kicked off from the platform,” a Twitter employee wrote. . . .
[T]he pressure on Twitter to take action against me and other mRNA vaccine skeptics steadily increased after that April meeting, and especially in July and August, as the government began to consider the unprecedented step of mandating Covid vaccines for adults. On July 16, 2021, President Biden complained publicly that social media companies were “killing people” by encouraging vaccine hesitancy. A few hours after Biden’s comment, Twitter suspended my account for the first time. On August 28, 2021, barely four months after the meeting, Twitter banned me.
It turns out that those were the tip of the iceberg. Today, the invaluable New Civil Liberties Alliance issued a press release reporting on a filing relating to discovery disputes in an ongoing matter titled State of Missouri v. Biden. The plaintiffs in the case are the states of Missouri and Louisiana (represented by their respective Attorneys General) and a group of professors who are the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, represented by the NCLA. The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction prohibiting the federal government from co-ordinating with the social media giants to suppress disfavored political speech. Although the government has resisted discovery, the evidence of massive co-ordination between the government and social media companies to suppress disfavored speech is gradually coming out. From the press release:
Multiple agencies’ communications demonstrate that the federal government has exerted tremendous pressure on social-media companies—pressure to which companies have repeatedly bowed. Discovery has unveiled an army of federal censorship bureaucrats, including officials arrayed at the White House, HHS, DHS, CISA, the CDC, NIAID, the Office of the Surgeon General, the Census Bureau, the FDA, the FBI, the State Department, the Treasury Department, and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Communications show these federal officials are fully aware that the pressure they exert is an effective and necessary way to induce social-media platforms to increase censorship. The head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency even griped about the need to overcome social-media companies’ “hesitation” to work with the government. These actions have precipitated an unprecedented rise in censorship and suppression of free speech—including core political speech—on social-media platforms.
In the discovery filing with the court, the NCLA and its co-counsel refer to the massive federal effort under Biden to suppress disfavored speech as the “Censorship Enterprise.”
The limited discovery produced so far provides a tantalizing snapshot into a massive, sprawling federal “Censorship Enterprise,” which includes dozens of federal officials across at least eleven federal agencies and components identified so far, who communicate with social-media platforms about misinformation, disinformation, and the suppression of private speech on social media—all with the intent and effect of pressuring social-media platforms to censor and suppress private speech that federal officials disfavor. The discovery provided so far demonstrates that this Censorship Enterprise is extremely broad, including officials in the White House, HHS, DHS, CISA, the CDC, NIAID, and the Office of the Surgeon General; and evidently other agencies as well, such as the Census Bureau, the FDA, the FBI, the State Department, the Treasury Department, and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. And it rises to the highest levels of the U.S. Government, including numerous White House officials. More discovery is needed to uncover the full scope of this “Censorship Enterprise,” and thus allow Plaintiffs the opportunity to achieve fully effective injunctive relief. Defendants have objected to producing some of the most relevant and probative information in their possession—i.e., the identities, and nature and content of communications, of White House officials and officials at other federal agencies who are not yet Defendants in this case because they were unknown when Plaintiffs served their discovery six weeks ago.
Many dozens of already-produced documents are attached to the discovery filing, consisting of communications back and forth between government bureaucrats and social media companies co-ordinating the responses to what they deem “misinformation” or the like. The subject matter of the communications that I have reviewed attached to this filing all seem to relate to the Covid-19 matter; but I would have little doubt that co-ordination very similar in type occurs on plenty of other subjects, most notably climate change and anything deemed sensitive to the Biden family (e.g., Hunter Biden laptop, Ashley Biden diary).
I’ll leave it to you to decide which you think is a greater threat to the Republic: the systematic government-wide effort to suppress free speech on social media and resist discovery about that when challenged in court; or former President Trump’s resistance to returning to the government some documents that they say are classified and he says he de-classified.