A Tremendous Victory for Free Speech

by | Sep 11, 2023

The White House, the FBI, and the CDC violated the First Amendment by encouraging and coercing social media companies to suppress free speech. 

Censorship is not just an attack on the free speech rights of the speaker; it is a coordinated effort against you, the citizen, and your right to information. It aims to perpetuate power by silencing dissent and destroying opposition.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed this principle on Friday night when it ruled that the White House, the FBI, and the CDC violated the First Amendment by encouraging and coercing social media companies to suppress free speech.

“The officials have engaged in a broad pressure campaign designed to coerce social-media companies into suppressing speakers, viewpoints, and content disfavored by the government,” a three-judge panel wrote in Missouri v. Biden. “The harms that radiate from such conduct extend far beyond just the Plaintiffs; it impacts every social-media user.”

The judges partly upheld a preliminary injunction from July, clarifying and narrowing an order designed to redress repeated and ongoing First Amendment violations. Their opinion outlines the federal bureaucracy’s efforts to silence critics of the White House’s Covid policies and to deny Americans the right to hear opposing viewpoints; efforts they describe as “unrelating pressure” that likely “had the intended result of suppressing millions of protected free speech postings by American citizens.”

While government officials told the press that their “content moderation policies” were “public health” initiatives, the legal case reveals their true motivation: to deny you the right to know their crimes, discuss their incompetence, or protest their policies.

The public is always the target of censorship, even if individuals suffer the consequences more directly. Julian Assange isn’t in jail for jumping bail. He is a political prisoner locked in solitary confinement for telling you the truth of American foreign policy. Edward Snowden wasn’t banished from his homeland for computer hacking. He is a citizen in exile because he exposed our leaders’ deceit and assaults on our Fourth Amendment liberties to the public.

White House Director of Digital Strategy Rob Flaherty doesn’t care about virology or epidemiology; he’s concerned with power. He didn’t approach social media companies with the Biden Administration’s latest statement on Covid; he launched threats as if he were a mobster.

“We are gravely concerned that your service is one of the top drivers of vaccine hesitancy—period,” he wrote to a Facebook executive. “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. . . . This would all be a lot easier if you would just be straight with us.”

At other times he was more direct in calling for suppression of political opponents’ speech. “Are you guys fucking serious?” Flaherty asked Facebook after the company failed to censor critics of the Covid vaccine. “I want an answer on what happened here and I want it today.” He called for censorship of true but inconvenient information, which the White House dubbed “malinformation.”

The Fifth Circuit explained that no injunction prevents the Biden Administration from exercising its own free speech rights. “The government can speak for itself, which includes the right to advocate and defend its own policies,” the court held.

But the case was never about the White House’s public statements. It concerns attacks on the essence of democratic government. If the ruling class can control your information, then you don’t live in a free country. Missouri v. Biden reveals how the government launched an unprecedented censorship campaign under the pretext of “public health.”

“The Supreme Court has rarely been faced with a coordinated campaign of this magnitude orchestrated by federal officials that jeopardized a fundamental aspect of American life,” the Fifth Circuit held.

The plaintiffs in the case reflect how the censorship attacked the foundations of American civic engagement. Doctors Jay Bhattacharya, Martin Kulldorff, and Aaron Kheriaty authored critiques of Covid lockdowns and policies. Jill Hines is a political activist who organized the “Reopen Louisiana” campaign. Jim Hoft is a journalist who owns the Gateway Pundit. Missouri and Louisiana sued on behalf of their citizens’ right to “the free flow of information.”

Taken together, the Biden Administration’s targets were medical freedom, political liberty, a free press, and federalism. Each of those pillars of liberty is a direct threat to their aim of centralized control. They sought to create an informational monopoly to serve their own interests in blatant disregard for the Constitution they swore an oath to uphold.

Friday’s decision provides a crucial step in fighting against that informational totalitarianism. The Fifth Circuit issued an injunction that prohibits the Biden Administration from taking actions, “to coerce or significantly encourage social-media companies to remove, delete, suppress, or reduce, including through altering their algorithms, posted social-media content containing protected free speech.”

The decision is not just a victory for the plaintiffs. It is part of a necessary process to come to terms with the lies, the despotism, and the lawless evil that engulfed our country beginning in March 2020.

True, the injunction does not go far enough. It leaves too many agencies untouched. It has too many exceptions and loopholes. It also does nothing to compensate the victims or repair the egregious damage from the control of the public mind over the last three and a half years. But in times when we are clawing back rights and liberties we once took for granted, it is an excellent beginning. There is much more to do in every area of life.

Made available by the American Institute for Economic Research.

The Brownstone Institute for Social and Economic Research is a nonprofit organization conceived of in May 2021 in support of a society that minimizes the role of violence in public life.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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Missouri v. Biden: Free Speech in the Crossfire

Missouri v. Biden: Free Speech in the Crossfire

The case against the government here is that it cannot do through third parties such as social media platforms what it is forbidden from doing directly by virtue of the First Amendment. The case in question is popularly known as Missouri v. Biden, and there is much at stake with its results.

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