Biden Administration Sued Over Conspiracy to Censor Disfavored Media Outlets

The State of Texas and several media outlets have sued the Biden administration for allegedly engaging in a conspiracy to censor ‘disfavored’ news organizations
Biden Administration Sued Over Conspiracy to Censor Disfavored Media Outlets
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards a plane on his way to Cyprus at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Nov. 5, 2023. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Tom Ozimek

The U.S. State Department and several Biden administration officials have been sued by the State of Texas and a pair of conservative media organizations for allegedly conspiring to censor, deplatform, and demonetize news outlets that are disfavored by the federal government.

The complaint, which was filed on Dec. 6 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, accuses the State Department of acting through its Global Engagement Center (GEC) to fund and otherwise back censorship technology and private censorship enterprises “to covertly suppress speech of a segment of the American press.”

The plaintiffs—which include media outlets The Daily Wire and The Federalist—accuse the State Department, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and several GEC officials of actively intervening in the news-media market by creating blacklists of disfavored press outlets that are labeled as purveyors of “disinformation,” with the aim of making them unprofitable.

The complaint stated that the full breadth of the GEC’s alleged censorship scheme is currently unknown but alleged that the GEC has funded and promoted two “American censorship enterprises”: the Global Disinformation Index (GDI) and NewsGuard.

“These entities generate blacklists of ostensibly risky or unreliable American news outlets for the purpose of discrediting the disfavored press and redirecting money and audiences to news organizations that publish favored viewpoints,” the complaint reads.

By branding the media plaintiffs as “unreliable” and “risky,” these government-funded “censorship enterprises” have allegedly injured the media plaintiffs by starving them of advertising revenue and reducing their circulation.

The state of Texas is one of the plaintiffs because the defendants’ actions allegedly undermine Texas law, which requires social media companies with market power to act as common carriers, and the defendants’ “unlawful censorship scheme” interferes with the state’s sovereign interest in creating and enforcing a legal code.

The State Department didn’t respond to a request for comment on the legal action.

GDI says it assesses “disinformation risk” in media markets around the world, and its mission is to “disrupt online disinformation” and “catalyse change.”

NewsGuard says it provides “transparent tools to counter misinformation for readers, brands, and democracies.”

NewsGuard in Focus

Previous investigative reporting from The Epoch Times reveals how NewsGuard has become an “establishment guard” against independent media outlets.

NewsGuard claims to rate online content for trustworthiness, dispatching analysts to prepare reviews of content creators and issue ratings, which are displayed as small badges with scores next to search results.

But the investigative report showed that NewsGuard does far more than that; its business model puts “censorious pressure” on news organizations.

The organization’s most potent function stems from its relationships with advertising agencies, which have steered their clients to cut off advertising dollars for content creators disfavored by the company’s “analyst” reviews, The Epoch Times previously reported.

Corporate, establishment-friendly media tend to receive high scores, while independent media skeptical of the establishment tend to receive low scores, even if they adhere to high journalistic standards.

NewsGuard claims that it’s objective and nonpartisan. It rates media quality across nine measures, including adherence to standard editorial practice, such as issuing corrections and labeling opinion pieces, and whether a given media outlet publishes news “responsibly” or repeatedly publishes false claims.

However, the investigative report shows that, in practice, most of NewsGuard’s score comes down to whether it deems a given piece of news content as truthful. It also shows that, more often than not, media outlets that NewsGuard rates poorly are right-leaning.

NewsGuard has defended its labeling methodology and actions, calling its rating process “transparent and journalistic in every sense.”

More Details

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that claims that NewsGuard is part of a Biden administration censorship machine, accused the State Department of engaging in unconstitutional free speech violations.

“I am proud to lead the fight to save Americans’ precious constitutional rights from Joe Biden’s tyrannical federal government,” Mr. Paxton said in a statement. “The State Department’s mission to obliterate the First Amendment is completely un-American. This agency will not get away with their illegal campaign to silence citizens and publications they disagree with.”

Sean Davis, CEO of The Federalist, called the lawsuit “the beginning of the end of the federal government’s ongoing efforts to destroy our free speech rights.”

“Every last person involved in the illegal conspiracy to use the power of government to trample our First Amendment rights better buckle up because we are not going to stop until the entire censorship-industrial complex is on the ash heap of history,” he added.

The Daily Wire, which was co-founded by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, issued a statement accusing the Biden administration of “illegally funding organizations with the stated goal of financially crippling media outlets whose coverage does not walk in lockstep with the government’s ideological agenda.”

“We’re suing for our rights, all news organizations’ rights, and the constitutional guarantee of a free press that all Americans deserve,” the outlet added.

Petr Svab contributed to this report.