In a big ruling against Big Tech and for free speech, a federal judge has blocked Biden administration officials from contacting social media companies in an effort to censor and suppress online postings. The ruling came down on Tuesday in response to Missouri v. Biden, a case filed by the attorneys general of Louisiana and Missouri.
On Thursday’s show, Megyn was joined by Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA and host of The Charlie Kirk Show, to talk about how the ruling is a win for free speech and what the opinion makes clear about censorship.
Missouri v. Biden
At the heart of the Missouri v. Biden case is whether or not government officials can be held responsible for social media censorship. Judge Terry Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana ruled they can, in fact, be.
His 155-page opinion describes countless instances of coordination between the federal government and Big Tech to suppress certain viewpoints – especially on the issues of COVID-19 and First Son Hunter Biden. It reads, in part:
“This case is about the Free Speech Clause in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The explosion of social-media platforms has resulted in unique free speech issues—this is especially true in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. If the allegations made by Plaintiffs are true, the present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history. In their attempts to suppress alleged disinformation, the Federal Government, and particularly the Defendants named here, are alleged to have blatantly ignored the First Amendment’s right to free speech.
Although the censorship alleged in this case almost exclusively targeted conservative speech, the issues raised herein go beyond party lines. The right to free speech is not a member of any political party and does not hold any political ideology. It is the purpose of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail, rather than to countenance monopolization of the market, whether it be by government itself or private licensee.”
Megyn said the case is an important one. “God bless the attorneys general of Louisiana and Missouri… they filed a lawsuit alleging the federal government cannot do through big tech that which they could not do to us directly,” she explained. “We have a First Amendment that allows us free speech, and they’re not allowed to censor our speech based on viewpoint discrimination – that’s the reason for the First Amendment, to protect speech that’s unpopular.”
When it comes to COVID-19 and other choice issues, however, the federal government has sought to suppress speech through the social media platforms run by Big Tech (think: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.). “These two attorneys general filed a lawsuit saying this is unconstitutional, and they won their first big battle in federal court in Louisiana,” Megyn said. “A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction blocking a long list of federal agencies and officials from communicating with social media platforms about some content online.”
Those officials and agencies include White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, employees of the Department of Justice and FBI, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
How the Government Colluded with Big Tech
Judge Doughty’s opinion outlines a number of specific examples involving the federal government and proxy organization soliciting Big Tech to censor or suppress specific topics and conversations.
One notable case involved White House senior COVID-19 advisor Andrew Slavitt wanting Facebook to censor then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson in April 2021 because of his “anti-vax message.” Facebook executive Nick Clegg responded the same day with a detailed report about Carlson’s post. He said that while it did not qualify for removal under Facebook policy, the video was not being recommended to people and was being “demoted.”
That apparently wasn’t enough for the Biden White House. Former Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Digital Strategy Rob Flaherty reached out to another Facebook contact asking for a more detailed explanation of why the social media platform wouldn’t remove the video and questioning how the clip had been “demoted” since it had 40,000 shares. Facebook ultimately maintained that Carlson’s content did not violate its guidelines, but it gave the video a 50 percent demotion for seven days and promised that it would continue to demote the video.
Megyn called the overreach “unbelievable.” “It’s absolutely offensive and well beyond what any normal administration would ever think it was within their purview to censor,” she said – adding that the media has gotten the ruling all wrong. “If you listen to NPR or you listen to the left, they’re gonna make you believe that they can’t have any communication, that if they found out there’s a child pornography ring on Facebook, they’re not allowed to call Facebook,” she noted. “That’s a lie, and the ruling makes that specifically clear.”
The Effects of the Censorship
It may be encouraging to know that this preliminary injunction can help – in Kirk’s words – “level the playing field to some degree” ahead of the 2024 election, but he couldn’t help but wonder what could have been. “What would the country look like ideologically if they didn’t interfere in these conversations,” he asked. “I believe we are a center right country and we’re increasingly becoming more of a center right country… I think we’d have even more of a conservative country if we had liberated dialogue and discourse.”
In his view, this case puts a microscope on the idea of the “fourth branch of government” that is comprised of “the unelected civil service bureaucrats” who “do not want to have the people be able to express their opinions without them being the ultimate check and balance.” He believes “they fear that there is a center right resurgence in this country” with or without former President Donald Trump. “They fear that the country is starting to reject this sort of trans zealotry and they find this idea of ‘chest feeding’ or teaching pornography to nine year olds in schools to be outright repulsive,” Kirk shared. “So, they are using every means at their disposal to go after the political dissidents.”
Kirk traces the recent origins of this back to the Republicans who created national security agencies in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. With Islamic extremism and terrorism no longer posing the threat it once did, he said the agencies have found a new target – conservative Americans. “This is a pattern of tyrants,” Kirk concluded. “They use the instruments of government to go after people that might be a threat or might pose some sort of disagreement to their aims and their ambitions.”
You can check out Megyn’s full interview with Kirk by tuning in to episode 582 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.