Missouri AG Gears Up to Fight Biden Admin on Social Media Censorship

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey is preparing to argue in court on Aug. 10 that the Biden administration’s “vast censorship enterprise” that is targeting American voices should be permanently halted.
Missouri AG Gears Up to Fight Biden Admin on Social Media Censorship
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey speaks to reporters after taking the oath of office in Jefferson City, Mo., on Jan. 3, 2023. (David A. Lieb/AP Photo)
Matthew Vadum
Jan Jekielek

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey is preparing to argue in federal court on Aug. 10 that the Biden administration’s “vast censorship enterprise” that’s targeting American voices should be permanently halted.

Mr. Bailey, a Republican, is scheduled to appear before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit this week to argue that a historic nationwide injunction that prevents federal agencies such as the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI from colluding with big tech firms to censor posts on social media should be made permanent.

Mr. Bailey told EpochTV’s “American Thought Leaders: Now” sub-series that he'll be defending the injunction that aims to curtail the federal government’s “vast censorship enterprise” that operates amid “a dystopian scenario, Orwellian in nature.”

In court on May 26, the trial judge even asked DOJ attorneys “if they had read George Orwell’s book, ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ and were familiar with Oceania’s Ministry of Truth,” he said.

The lawsuit that spawned the injunction was filed by Missouri and Louisiana’s attorneys general, who have accused Biden administration officials of engaging in what amounts to governmental censorship-by-proxy by leaning on social media companies to take down posts or suspend accounts.

The lawsuit alleged that the Biden administration urged or even mandated Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube “to censor viewpoints and speakers disfavored by the Left,” under the cover of combating “disinformation,” “misinformation,” and “malinformation.”

On July 4, U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty in Monroe, Louisiana, an appointee of President Donald Trump, signed an order prohibiting several agencies, including the DOJ, the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from intimidating social media companies.

The injunction provides that agencies and their employees may not communicate with the social media companies by “urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner for removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.”

The agencies may not flag content on social media platforms or seek to remove content or suppress its reach. The agencies also may not press the platforms to alter their guidelines for the removal, suppression, or reduction of content that contains protected free speech.

Mr. Bailey said the preliminary part of the discovery process “has uncovered a relationship of coercion and collusion between the White House across a spectrum of federal agencies to silence American voices on big tech social media in violation of the First Amendment.”

“We’ve got to build a wall of separation between tech and state to protect Americans’ First Amendment rights, and the first brick of that wall was laid on July 4, when the court agreed with our side of the issue and issued a nationwide injunction preventing President [Joe] Biden and the federal bureaucracy from coordinating with big tech social media to silence core political speech, which is protected under the First Amendment.”

After the trial court acted, the DOJ “almost instantly” moved against the injunction and “actually had the audacity to argue that the nation would suffer irreparable harm if they weren’t allowed to continue violating Americans’ First Amendment rights,” according to Mr. Bailey.

The trial judge “saw through that,” and the DOJ appealed, leading to the 5th Circuit court appearance on Aug. 10, he said.

Mr. Bailey questioned why the DOJ was bothering to go to the trouble of appealing the trial court’s 155-page order, most of which was “merely recounting the evidence we had adduced at the hearing.”

“But if you get to the last pages, all the court is saying is that the federal government can’t coordinate with big tech social media when it comes to speech protected by the First Amendment,” he said.

“The audacity of the states [that filed a supporting brief] and the audacity of the Department of Justice to say that we’re going to suffer irreparable harm if they aren’t allowed to violate the First Amendment. That’s how committed they are to the censorship enterprise.

“And think about this: No one would tolerate censorship if they were talking on a cell phone, and they started saying something that the White House didn’t like, and the cellphone company started muting their speech. Well, then, why would we allow that on big tech social media platforms?”

His side has “only just begun to scratch the surface” of the government’s censorship activities, so it’s important to have the permanent injunction affirmed so the discovery process in the lawsuit can continue, according to Mr. Bailey.

There is evidence that the Biden administration started building “a new bureaucratic mechanism to manage the censorship enterprise” and “that they’ve now outsourced that censorship enterprise to a third party because they knew that they were running afoul of the First Amendment,” he said.

“We know that COVID was the excuse, the Trojan horse that got the enemy behind the gate. That’s why that wall of separation between tech and state is so important right now, as we ramp up into an election cycle. There’s every reason to believe that COVID wasn’t the only basis for censorship and that the censorship enterprise is now targeting additional speech,” Mr. Bailey said.

“American Thought Leaders: Now” host Jan Jekielek discussed with Mr. Bailey that, on Aug. 1, the attorney general of New York, Democrat Letitia James, filed an amicus curiae, or friend-of-the-court, brief in support of the Biden administration that was joined by 20 other attorneys general.

Along with the District of Columbia, the states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin, he said.

Mr. Bailey didn’t seem surprised at the long list of states.

“If you’re a conservative who lives in those states, you should be concerned, because your state is committed to censorship on big tech social media platforms,” he said.

“You'll notice there aren’t any red states there because the freedom is going to live in Missouri. That’s why this case style is Missouri v. Biden. We’re happy to have Louisiana on board and private plaintiffs as well because we respect the First Amendment.

“The whole idea behind the Bill of Rights is to protect the rest of us from the government. And certainly, there’s an important reason that the First Amendment was included with the right to free speech, free press, and freedom of religion.

“The First Amendment should be a bipartisan issue. And we used to elevate the rules of the game above the players and the outcomes. Both parties did that. And clearly, the left has jettisoned that approach.”

Mr. Jekielek read aloud from the brief, saying the states characterized government outreach to the social media platforms as “pure recommendatory and non-coercive communications [that] further the public interest” and are consistent with the First Amendment.

“They believe that this is within the bounds of the First Amendment,” he said.

Mr. Bailey replied, “It is clearly not, and it’s dripping with irony that they want the government to protect all of us from misinformation.

“And then through that amicus brief, they actually spread misinformation. The remedy for disfavored speech in this country has always been counter-speech, not government censorship, and yet, they’re clearly advocating in favor of government censorship.”

The federal government engaged in “viewpoint discrimination,” he said.

“That’s why that wall of separation between tech and state is so important. It protects both sides,” Mr. Bailey said.

He said people in blue states who claim that the federal government isn’t involved in coercion need to look at the emails from March, April, and May 2021 that revealed that the White House was “demanding that specific posts be taken down, and any vaccine hesitancy be stifled in silence.”

“You can look at [then-White House press secretary] Jen Psaki from the White House podium saying that certainly they’re making specific demands and requests for censorship and that big tech social media understands those requests,” Mr. Bailey said.

“You can watch the video of Joe Biden on the White House lawn, accusing Facebook of killing people by not censoring more and demanding that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act be repealed or amended, or look at [Rep. Jim] Jordan’s Facebook files that he just released, where certainly Facebook understood that the demands were being made by the federal government and that they likely violated the First Amendment.

“If that’s not a coercive relationship, I don’t know what is.”

Tom Ozimek contributed to this article.