Judge Bars Gov’t Officials, Agencies from Contacting Social Media Companies

On Independence Day, a federal judge in Louisiana has issued a significant ruling that prohibits several federal agencies and specific officials from engaging in communication with social media companies for the purpose of content moderation.

This preliminary injunction emerged from a lawsuit filed by Missouri and Louisiana states, as well as individuals who include prominent critics of the Covid-19 lockdown measures, namely Martin Kulldorff from Harvard, Jay Bhattacharya from Stanford, and Jim Hoft, the owner of the right-wing website Gateway Pundit.

If the allegations made by plaintiffs are true, the present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history,… The plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits in establishing that the government has used its power to silence the opposition.

US District Judge Terry A. Doughty

The dozens of people and agencies bound by the injunction include President Biden, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control, the Treasury Department, State Department, the US Election Assistance Commission, the FBI and entire Justice Department, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Bhattacharya and Kulldorff, who are among the originators of the Great Barrington Declaration that denounced the lockdown regime, have been victims of social media censorship. For example, the pair says their censorship-triggering statements included assertions that “thinking everyone must be vaccinated is scientifically flawed,” questioning the value of masks, and stating that natural immunity is stronger than vaccine immunity.

While the case is dominated by Covid-19 censorship, it also encompasses the Justice Department’s efforts to suppress reporting about Hunter Biden’s “laptop from hell” in the run-up to the 2020 election. Judge Doughty gave credence to that accusation.

The injunction represents a major validation of accusations that government officials have colluded with social media platforms to suppress speech that counters official narratives, with the restraints falling almost exclusively on conservative viewpoints.

In a 155-page ruling, Doughty expressed a bleak assessment, stating, “The evidence thus far depicts an almost dystopian scenario.” He further compared the role of the United States Government during the COVID-19 pandemic to that of an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth.’

Doughty highlighted that “The White House defendants made it very clear to social-media companies what they wanted suppressed and what they wanted amplified.” According to the judge, social media companies appeared to comply with these requests under relentless pressure from the most powerful office in the world.

 The White House defendants made it very clear to social-media companies what they wanted suppressed and what they wanted amplified. Faced with unrelenting pressure from the most powerful office in the world, the social-media companies apparently complied.

US District Judge Terry A. Doughty

The judge quoted communications from administration officials to social media company employees, citing them as instances of coercion by the White House defendants. A few examples included statements such as,

  • “Cannot stress the degree to which this needs to be resolved immediately. Please remove this account immediately,” and
  • To Facebook: “Are you guys fucking serious? I want an answer on what happened here and I want it today.”
  • “This is a concern that is shared at the highest (and I mean highest) levels of the WH”
  • “Hey folks, wanted to flag the below tweet and am wondering if we can get moving on the process of having it removed. ASAP”

The judge also noted that these demands coincided with threats to alter the social media regulation framework, which held additional weight as the Democrats controlled the White House and Congress.

The assertion that social media platforms and the government collaborated is supported by the communication and bureaucratic processes involved. According to Doughty, “Many emails between the White House and social-media companies referred to themselves as ‘partners.’ Twitter even sent the White House a ‘Partner Support Portal’ for expedited review of the White House’s requests.”

As a result of the ruling, a lengthy roster of agencies and individuals is now restricted from engaging with social media platforms with the intention of influencing the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.

Doughty emphasized the fundamental principle underlying the First Amendment, stating, “If there is a bedrock principal underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.”

Below is a copy of the Great Barrington Declaration, which some “experts” in the scientific community have criticized for lacking scientific rigor, advocating for a potentially harmful herd immunity strategy, posing challenges in implementing focused protection, raising ethical concerns, contradicting prevailing scientific consensus, and lacking broad representation among the scientific community.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Dr. Martin Kulldorff, left, professor of medicine at Harvard University, Dr. Sunetra Gupta, professor at Oxford University, and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, professor at Stanford University Medical School, are the orignal authors of the Great Barrington Declaration.

As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists, we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.

Coming from both the left and right, and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people. Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings, and deteriorating mental health—leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.

Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.

Fortunately, our understanding of the virus is growing. We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.

As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all—including the vulnerable—falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity—i.e., the point at which the rate of new infections is stable—and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.

The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.

Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19. By way of example, nursing homes should use staff with acquired immunity and perform frequent PCR testing of other staff and all visitors. Staff rotation should be minimized. Retired people living at home should have groceries and other essentials delivered to their home. When possible, they should meet family members outside rather than inside. A comprehensive and detailed list of measures, including approaches to multi-generational households, can be implemented and is well within the scope and capability of public health professionals.

Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. Simple hygiene measures, such as handwashing and staying home when sick, should be practiced by everyone to reduce the herd immunity threshold. Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young, low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home. Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport, and other cultural activities should resume. People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity.

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