Attorneys general in Missouri and Louisiana filed a motion for preliminary injunction this week demanding a court stop Big Tech companies from colluding with the federal government to inform their political censorship sprees, after the White House has repeatedly bragged about exploiting its relationships with social media companies to suppress information the Biden administration deems “problematic.”
In the motion, Missouri AG Eric Schmitt and Louisiana AG Jeff Landry argue that the Biden administration, in partnership with Meta (formerly Facebook), Twitter, Google’s YouTube, and other Silicon Valley giants, has taken advantage of Big Tech’s grip on the social media platform market to suppress any speech contrary to their chosen narrative
“Freedom of speech is the very bedrock of this great nation, and needs to be protected and preserved. The federal government’s alleged attempts to collude with social media companies to censor free speech should terrify Missourians and Americans alike,” Schmitt said in a statement. “The federal government must be halted from silencing any more Americans, and this motion for preliminary injunction intends to do just that.”
The fed-inspired decision to “shadow-ban, de-platform, de-monetize, de-boost, restrict content access, and suspend many speakers, both temporarily and permanently,” a press release announcing the motion states, has silenced people “from doctors and scientists, to the owner of a conservative radio show, to everyday Americans who dare to voice their opinion in the public sphere.”
As noted by the state attorneys, it was during the height of the government’s panic over Covid-19 that Big Tech censored the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration who criticized the bureaucrats calling for continuous national lockdowns. The “extensive social-media censorship on multiple platforms” endured by authors such as Dr. Martin Kulldorff and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya came shortly after emails between then-Director of the National Institutes of Health Dr. Francis Collins and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci demanding a “quick and devastating … takedown” of the group’s criticism.
The motion follows a complaint from the state attorneys last month against the Biden administration and other federal officials for engaging in “open and explicit censorship programs” such as the Department of Homeland Security’s “Disinformation Governance Board.”
“Having threatened and cajoled social-media platforms for years to censor viewpoints and speakers disfavored by the Left, senior government officials in the Executive Branch have moved into a phase of open collusion with social-media companies to suppress disfavored speakers, viewpoints, and content on social-media platforms under the Orwellian guise of halting so-called ‘disinformation,’ ‘misinformation,’ and ‘malinformation,’” the original petition states.
Twitter repeatedly locks the accounts of conservatives who criticize the left’s narrative. When outrage about the Big Tech company’s knack for political censorship bubbles, Twitter occasionally claims it made a mistake. This week, it happened again.
Citing an “error,” Twitter reinstated the account of “Relatable” podcast host Allie Beth Stuckey on Monday night. But that was only after it received backlash for locking the Christian conservative’s account because she criticized Fox News for celebrating a California couple who forced radical transgender ideology on their 14-year-old daughter when she was an infant.
“I’m stunned that Fox News ran a segment celebrating a girl whose parents ‘transitioned’ her into a boy when she was 5 because she apparently told them she was a boy ‘before [she] could talk.’ Absolutely maddening & heartbreaking,” Stuckey’s original tweet stated.
At the time of the suspension, Twitter claimed Stuckey violated its hateful conduct policy.
“You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease,” a message from Twitter stated.
It was only after Stuckey appealed and several prominent conservatives including Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon tweeted their disgust at Twitter’s decision that the company decided to reverse course on the commentator’s account.
“Just got word from @conservmillen that she’s been locked out for hateful conduct,” Dillon said. “It seems they’ll keep this up until everyone remaining on the platform either agrees with them or censors themselves.”
Stuckey may have won her appeal but Twitter has repeatedly used its sweeping “hateful conduct policy” to deplatform conservatives and even one popular satire account for affirming the realities of the sexes. That’s something even possible Twitter-buyer Elon Musk has noticed.
The Federalist’s John Daniel Davidson was indefinitely banned by Twitter in March after he tweeted that Rachel Levine, the U.S. assistant secretary for health, is obviously a man despite the corporate media, Big Tech, and the Biden administration’s insistence that he is a “trans woman.” Despite appealing numerous times, Davidson still is not allowed back on Twitter unless he bends a knee to Twitter and deletes his original tweet.
Davidson’s suspension occurred shortly after Twitter locked down the Babylon Bee account for calling a male a man. Similarly, Twitter suspended Babylon Bee Editor-in-Chief Kyle Mann for tweeting a joke about Twitter’s subjective user policies. Turning Point USA Founder and President Charlie Kirk and Libs of Tik Tok also suffered suspensions for contradicting the prevailing leftist narrative.
Leaked messages from what appears to be an internal Twitter conversation over Slack show that Twitter employees purposefully target Libs of Tik Tok because they don’t like that the anonymous creator exposes what gender-bending, Trump-hating, racist, groomer leftists have already revealed about themselves online.
Those suspensions were nothing new for Twitter, though. The company’s history of targeting anyone who harms their preferred narrative™ — such as President Donald Trump, Canadian truckers, doctors and scientists discussing the origins of Covid-19, and the New York Post — indicates that Twitter suppressing dissenters is no accident.
Twitter, the platform guilty of election interference, targets conservatives, plain and simple. And any claims the Big Tech company makes of “error” are just a front for their demonstrated goal of silencing influential conservative ideas online.
Bureau whistleblowers are claiming that the FBI is using the January 6 riot at the Capitol as a pretext to perform a political purge of agents. This purge targets FBI agents and other employees who simply exercised their constitutionally protected rights and attended the January 6 rally — and committed no crimes.
“The employees did not enter the United States Capitol and have not been charged with any crime” but are allegedly still being fired, said the House Judiciary GOP in a Twitter post on Friday, citing unnamed whistleblowers at the Bureau.
In response to a letter from Republican lawmakers to the FBI Director Christopher Wray — signed by House Judiciary Ranking Member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — the congressmen confirmed reports that the Department of Justice’s Inspector General’s (DOJIG) office is considering investigating whether the FBI revoked the security clearances of agents who simply attended the rally last year.
As most who have worked in federal law enforcement or intelligence know, revoking security clearances makes it impossible to do the job. As the letter notes, “these actions [revoking clearances] mean the FBI has suspended these employees indefinitely.”
On Thursday Fox News noted that:
…the FBI revoked their clearances, citing “Adjudicative Guideline A – Allegiance to the United States. This move appears to follow a Democratic tactic in conflating peaceful protesters on Jan. 6 with those who actively stormed the Capitol in an apparent attempt to prevent Congress from certifying the Electoral College vote for President Biden.
Fox News also reported that the DOJIG Michael Horowitz told House Judiciary Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) in a reply letter that his office “will ask the FBI to provide the bases for the security clearance and personnel actions taken against the employees you reference in your letter.”
The IG added: “In making such an assessment, we will also consider information about other employees who believe the FBI has taken administrative actions against them for engaging in protected activities on January 6, 2021.”
While the Hatch Act prohibits FBI and other government employees from engaging in partisan political campaigns or political management, The Epoch Times reported that Friday’s letter noted that despite the Hatch Act:
FBI employees do not give up their rights to engage in political speech activity. We have serious concerns that the FBI appears to be retaliating against employees for engaging in political speech disfavored by FBI leadership.
"Gutfeld!" panelist Tyrus envisions a musical take on Homeland information czar and TikTok variety act Nina Jankowicz — like "singing telegrams when you're canceled for a tweet."
ove or loathe President Donald Trump, but the 45th commander in chief gave comics all the material they needed.
Now, the Biden administration is serving up a potential bounty of low-hanging new satirical fruit, but so far most comedians aren’t indulging.
Biden’s proposed Disinformation Governance Board, an off-shoot of the Homeland Security Department, promises to root out “lies” peddled by Russia, Iran and other global forces. Conservatives pounced on the group’s formation, dubbing it a spiritual cousin to George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth from his dystopian classic, “1984.”
Biden’s group will be led by Nina Jankowicz, a so-called disinformation guru who previously labeled the Hunter Biden laptop story Fake News and sang the praises of Christopher Steele, author of the widely debunked Steele Dossier.
That plus her history of posting goofy TikTok videos of her singing in a Mary Poppins-style falsetto about “misinformation” offer up comic gold.
At least on paper, that is. We’ve yet to see late night TV or “Saturday Night Live” line up to explore the possibilities. Stephen Colbert is laser-focused on the Roe v. Wade debate flowing from the Supreme Court leak earlier this month.
Unwoke comedy insurgents, however, are another story. Paul Crosetti, executive producer of the right-leaning satire series “That Show Tonight,” says his show already has the topics in its sights.
Pulling no punches, a recent “That Show Tonight” parody featured the new board’s “strategist,” Vilhelm Kannepertz, speaking in a Nazi-like accent.
“The no-brainer is comparing the department to past ‘ministries of truth’ regimes,” Crosetti says. “You can see how Jankowicz could easily become a caricature of herself, especially if she spends any amount of time in the public view.”
He doesn’t expect much comedy competition, at least for now, in poking fun at either Jankowicz or the board in general.
“If recent history serves as a guide, mainstream network shows, whether ‘SNL’ or the late-night shows, will steer clear,” he says of those left-leaning outlets.
Comedian Andrew Heaton agrees that Colbert and co. won’t be addressing the board or its antic maitresse anytime soon.
“I’m the sort of person to make fun of this thing, and this is the first I’ve heard of it — I doubt it’s widely known, and probably a secondary issue to Ukraine, Roe v Wade, and of course the eternal ‘the other party is truly evil’ slapfight,” says Heaton, host of podcasts “The Political Orphanage” and “Losers, Pretenders & Scoundrels.”
Political satirist Lou Perez thinks comedians will come around to both the board and Jankowicz.
“A Disinformation Governance Board that openly threatens civil liberties should be a nonpartisan field day for joke slinging,” says Perez, author of the upcoming book, “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore: On the Death and Rebirth of Comedy.”
“The question is, which comedians?” asks Perez, who previously satirized both sides of the political aisle via We the Internet TV. “For years, many comedians on the left were afraid to make jokes that could hurt their side. Trump was an existential threat after all … I think this is an opportunity for them to step up and rightfully mock our current president and his administration.”
As for Jankowicz, her social media warblings make her perfect for a Broadway musical parody. “Musical versions of George Orwell’s 1984 have been done already,” he says. “But I imagine Jankowicz’s 2022 would be a lot brighter than ’84. More pop and TikTok, you know. Call Jankowicz ‘Miss Information’ or something cute like that.”
Tyrus, the wrestler-turned-pundit from Fox News’ “Gutfeld!,” sees plenty of satirical fodder in the board and its leader — but fears party discipline may interfere with comic opportunity.
“Unfortunately, [comedians] let division and politics get in the way of a great joke or jokes,” he says. “Tragic.”
Like Perez, Tyrus envisions a musical take on Jankowicz, like “singing telegrams when you’re canceled for a tweet,” he suggests.
Nina Jankowicz says she’s “committed to protecting free speech.” LOL
When we first heard Alejandro Mayorkas announce a Department of Homeland Security “Disinformation Governance Board,” we thought he was trolling. Then he said Nina Jankowicz, best known as TikTok’s “Mary Poppins of Disinformation,” would head it. LOL, as the kids say. Right out of the gate, Jankowicz trumpeted her “committment [sic] to protecting free speech.”
Apparently Mayorkas is serious, and the administration is rolling out Jankowicz, author of the new book “How to Be a Woman Online,” as a “renowned expert in the field of disinformation.” That’s true, though she’s more a practitioner of the craft than an expert in combating it. Jankowicz condemned the New York Post’s reporting on Hunter Biden’s laptop as a “Russian influence op” and fanned the bogus claim that the Steele dossier began as a “Republican opposition research project.” These are fine examples of Democrats, as Washington Free Beacon man of the year Matt Yglesias explained in a recent analysis, using the “disinformation” charge as a scapegoat for losing voters.
As for her commitment to unfettered speech, Jankowicz told her friends at National Public Radio last month that she “shudder[s]” to think about a scenario in which “free speech absolutists were taking over more platforms” and bemoaned so-called “awful but lawful content.” The solution? “Law enforcement and our legislatures,” she said, must “do more.”
Mayorkas, meanwhile, is busy tamping down the concerns of proles like us that the Nurse Ratched of disinformation will have any power. “The board does not have any operational authority or capability,” he told CNN’s Dana Bash. “What it will do is gather together best practices of addressing the threat of disinformation from foreign state adversaries, from the cartels, and disseminate those practices to the operators that have been executing and addressing this threat for years.” Sounds like disinformation to us.
The administration dispenses Orwellian lies on a daily basis. We may be in a recession, but that’s just masking a broader recovery! That $3.5 trillion spending bill actually costs zero dollars! And, per Mayorkas jawboning on another topic on Sunday, the administration has done a fine job managing a ballooning crisis on the southern border.
This is Joe Biden’s nut house. We’re just living in it.
‘Every American should be deeply concerned by the fact that a few unaccountable big tech companies are controlling the free flow of information.’
Facebook obliterated an award-winning conservative Wisconsin news page and cut off thousands of its followers without warning this week after wrongfully censoring it for months.
The Silicon Valley giant censored Wisconsin Right Now after the popular news site posted a story from The Australian to its Facebook feed that compared a picture of the infamous “Falling Man” from 9/11 to the horrific footage of Afghans falling from planes following President Joe Biden’s disastrous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.https://fd234f0003ecc424d4282e89fd3ef1ef.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Facebook quickly hid the post and slapped it with a community standards violation for “content related to suicide or self-injury.”
WRN appealed the violation, noting that the article did not advocate for self-harm, and Facebook reversed its decision but still unpublished WRN’s page.
A message from Facebook claimed that WRN “violates Facebook Pages terms” but did not specify why. The Big Tech company claimed that WRN could appeal if the unpublishing seemed to be a mistake but the link given by Facebook’s support team is broken.
Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.
“Every American should be deeply concerned by the fact that a few unaccountable big tech companies are controlling the free flow of information in our democracy, and that the decisions they make are often arbitrary and unfair,” Jim Piwowarczyk, WRN owner and contributor, told The Federalist. “What has happened to us is a very troubling example of this, and we call on Facebook to reverse its decision.”
Even before Facebook nuked WRN’s main page, the social media company restricted the page’s ability to invite new followers to “like” the page and live-stream videos for simply reporting the news.
Even though WRN won numerous awards for its airtight coverage of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, Facebook limited the news site’s ability to share articles about the young gunman.
“We led coverage on this case, going to the scene, interviewing witnesses a half-hour after it happened, uncovering missing ballistics evidence mentioned during the trial, and more,” Piwowarczyk explained.
Facebook still suppressed WRN’s coverage even after the media company published an analysis stating the firearm charge against Rittenhouse wouldn’t stand under Wisconsin gun laws, something the judge presiding over the case publicly ruled one day later.
“Facebook then did not remove the violations when Rittenhouse was acquitted,” Piwowarczyk said.
Facebook also enlisted the help of its fake “fact-checkers” to censor reposts about Hillary Clinton’s role in promoting the Russian collusion hoax and a meme about Rittenhouse playing video games with his judge.
“We have reported many stories the mainstream media will not, and it is highly questionable and troubling that Facebook would seek to prevent Wisconsin voters in a key battleground state (where Facebook-traced money was involved in elections) from learning all sides of the equation in the political debate and other news stories, especially as the midterm elections loom,” Piwowarczyk said.
A closer look at The New York Times’ reporting on Hunter Biden shows Biden’s team may be laying the groundwork ahead of an even bigger story.
Last Wednesday, The New York Times reported on the continuing criminal investigation into Hunter Biden, and in doing so finally acknowledged the emails recovered from the laptop abandoned at a Delaware repair shop were authentic. Since then, much of the media’s coverage has focused on the corrupt press’ burying of the laptop scandal The New York Post broke shortly before the 2020 election.
There is much more to be gleaned from the Times’s article, though, including these four takeaways.
The first key takeaway from The New York Times article concerns what it means for the scandals spawned by the October 2020 release of the emails and text messages contained on Hunter Biden’s MacBook. The supposed standard-bearers of journalism ignored those scandals for the last year-and-a-half by framing the material “Russian disinformation.”
Now that the Times has acknowledged that the Biden-related emails and other documents recovered from the abandoned laptop are authentic, that means the scandals they exposed are also legitimate. As summarized at The Federalist here, there are eight Joe Biden scandals that deserve investigation.
Beyond what Wednesday’s article on Hunter Biden means more broadly related to the scandals exposed by the abandoned MacBook, the substance of the Times’s coverage suggests a huge story about the president’s son is about to break. Here, it is helpful to remember that the Times is the newspaper of record for stories needed to soften the landing for Democrats embroiled in scandal. In this case, the tells are all there that the Times is offering an assist to the Bidens by getting ahead of the story to come.
Just as Press Secretary Jen Psaki smooths her copper coif before dropping a doozy, the Times alerts observant readers to the real story when it identifies its source for information harmful to a Democrat as a “person familiar with the investigation.” The Times used that technique ten times in its coverage of the Hunter Biden case.
Another sure give-away is the Times’s burying of the lede. That is an understatement of what the Old Grey Lady did when it titled its coverage of the investigation into Hunter Biden as “Hunter Biden Paid Tax Bill, but Broad Federal Investigation Continues.” The article then opened with:
In the year after he disclosed a federal investigation into his ‘tax affairs’ in late 2020, President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, paid off a significant tax liability, even as a grand jury continued to gather evidence in a wide-ranging examination of his international business dealings, according to people familiar with the case.
With a proper title, such as, “Prosecutors Find Evidence Hunter Profited by Selling Access to Vice-President Father,” serious reporting would open by alerting the audience to damning evidence accumulated by federal prosecutors that suggests Hunter Biden criminally profited from his dad’s position as Barack Obama’s vice president.
The Times’s tactic of preemptively providing defenses to hypothetical criminal charges should also alert readers to the inevitability of an indictment against Hunter. For more on the preemptive defense of Hunter see point 4 below.
So, what might those inevitable charges be? Of course, it is impossible to know for sure unless and until an indictment drops, but it is inconceivable that the Times would air the Biden family’s dirty laundry unless the reporters believed the entire household hamper was soon to be dumped in the middle of town.
Revisiting the Times’s article from last week, then, with the premise that the reporting seeks to “get ahead of the story,” suggests federal prosecutors may have some serious charges in mind for the president’s son. Tax evasion seems the most likely charge Hunter will face, given that the Times reported that the president’s son paid more than $1 million in tax liability while spinning any such criminal offense as Hunter’s mere “failure to pay all his taxes.”
A second charge floated by the Times concerns violations of “the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, which requires disclosure to the Justice Department of lobbying or public relations assistance on behalf of foreign clients.” Here, the Times’ efforts to frame Hunter’s potential violations of FARA as unintentional — and thus not criminal — suggests the Delaware U.S. attorney has a solid FARA case in the works.
The Times’s coverage, however, indicates federal prosecutors are looking at much more serious charges related to payments Hunter Biden received from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, as well his financial interests in Kazakhstan and China. Publicly available evidence already suggests Hunter Biden profited from these, and potentially other foreign interests, by selling access to his father when the elder Biden was vice president, which the Times casts as possibly allowing for a “money laundering” charge against Hunter.
In last week’s article, the Times reveals that prosecutors have accumulated significantly more evidence suggesting Hunter profited from these relationships, with prosecutors allegedly investigating “payments and gifts Mr. Biden or his associates had received from foreign interests, including a vehicle paid for using funds from a company associated with a Kazakh oligarch and a diamond from a Chinese energy tycoon.” The Times also reported that prosecutors have “sought documents related to corporate entities through which Mr. Biden and his associates conducted business with interests around the world.”
The Times further revealed that federal prosecutors have “issued scores of subpoenas,” related to “Hunter Biden’s foreign work and for bank accounts linked to him and his associates.” They even traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas, according to The Times, to interview Ms. Lunden Alexis Roberts, who sued Hunter for paternity payments, questioning her about Hunter’s business dealings. As for the emails recovered from the abandoned MacBook, federal investigators have authenticated those as well.
All of these details the Times reported in its article purportedly focused on the tax case against Hunter Biden. Other than the details confirmed by Roberts’s lawyer, the information came principally from “people familiar with the investigation,” which means one of two things: someone with the prosecutor’s office talked, or someone connected with Hunter Biden did.
History provides a pretty good hint of the answer — and its reason: Hunter Biden’s team likely gave the Times the heads-up to the case being crafted against the president’s son to allow the liberal mainstay to massage a narrative before any potential charges became public. Given the details shared with the Times by people familiar with the investigation, then regurgitated by the Times for the public, it seems some pretty serious charges may be in store for Hunter.
As noted above, the Times’ preemptive countering of several hypothetical criminal charges indicates the leftist paper’s coverage of the Hunter Biden case seeks not to inform the public but to form a gentle narrative on which the president’s son can land when the expected indictment drops. Here it is not merely the many defenses the Times lays out, but the entirety of the article that also downplays the potential charges and paints the most sympathetic scenario possible for Hunter Biden.
Consider, for instance, the Times’s framing of Hunter Biden and his apparent pay-to-play scheme. “Hunter Biden is a Yale-educated lawyer,” the article notes early on, claiming that the “broader investigation” stems “from work he did around the world” that “intersected with his father’s public service.”
It seems unlikely, though, that prosecutors are investigating “work” Hunter Biden did around the world, although not as unlikely as the claim that President Biden’s lifelong political career parlayed to his family’s financial advantage is “public service.”
The Times also succeeded in presenting the Hunter Biden-Burisma scandal as one really about Trump, writing: “Hunter Biden’s work for Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy company, became a flashpoint in his father’s race in 2020 against President Donald J. Trump and helped set off the events that led to Mr. Trump’s first impeachment.”
Apparently, the Times will need another year or two before it can also acknowledge Donald Trump’s concern about Biden family corruption in Ukrainian was legitimate and that Trump’s impeachment was pure politics.
Then there was the Times’s reference to Hunter’s “serious drug addiction and other problems during the period” the potentially illegal conduct took place. Add to those facts that Hunter was also “dealing with the illness and death of his brother Beau,” and the Times seems to suggest these sad circumstances mitigate the seriousness of any forthcoming charges.
The remainder of the article presents various counters to the charges, such as that Hunter repaid the back taxes by taking out a loan — oh, the horror. The Times then pretends paying the government back lessens the import of a tax evasion case.
On a potential FARA charge, the Times suggests Hunter attempted to comply with the law and that any violation was unintentional, meaning at best he should be held only civilly responsible. And on the most serious charge floated by the Times, money laundering, the paper presents that case as connected to the FARA charge, suggesting it would be inappropriate to charge the president’s son with money laundering if he is innocent of violating FARA.
Until the Delaware U.S. attorney announces charges, if any, against Hunter Biden, it is impossible to know the criminal jeopardy the president’s son may face. But, given that when the Times reports on stories harmful to Democratic interests it proves prescient, odds are good that some serious charges are in the works.
Earlier this week, Twitter locked the account of The Babylon Bee, a right-leaning parody site, after it awarded Rachel Levine, a transgender Biden administration official, the title of “man of the year” in reaction to USA Today naming Levine one of its “women of the year” last week. This is just the most recent example in a long train of Big Tech censorship actions.
Taking a stand against Big Tech censorship, the state of Texas passed an anti-discrimination social media law (HB 20) last September. It seeks to limit Big Tech companies’ power to silence viewpoints they don’t like.
The law does so by prohibiting social media platforms with more than 50 million active monthly users in the United States from censoring users or their expressions based on the viewpoint expressed. Along with explicitly prohibiting viewpoint discrimination by social-media companies, the law enables censored users to seek declaratory and injunctive relief in court.
Texas’ law was cause for hope for many nationwide who want the giant social media platforms to be held accountable for their suppression of free speech. Unfortunately, Judge Robert Pitman, an Obama appointee, in early December enjoined the Texas non-discrimination social media law from going into effect.
But those who want a fair and democratic public discourse need not despair yet. That lower court decision was appealed, and soon the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will hear oral arguments on this appeal.
A wide range of distinguished amici have argued to the court that it should uphold the Texas statute and thereby protect Americans from censorship. The briefs include a profound story by David Mamet, an eminent doctor’s account of how even privatized suppression threatens science, and an exploration of the thought of John Stuart Mill by Columbia students against censorship.
What may need more explanation here is why the protection against tech censorship does not intrude on the tech company’s own free speech. As argued in an amicus brief filed by the Center for Renewing America and the Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, there are good First Amendment reasons for upholding the Texas law and reversing Judge Pitman’s flawed and biased order.
First, the appellate court should correctly recognize that the First Amendment applies differently to speakers than to those who host or transmit speech. While the government forcing a person or group to speak a particular message raises First Amendment concerns, regulating the terms under which entities host or transmit others’ speech complies with the Constitution.
For instance, for centuries courts have required common carriers, industries that play a central role in economic, social, and political life, such as telephones, utilities, and airlines, to treat customers without discrimination. The numerous legal requirements have never raised First Amendment concerns. HB 20’s protection of Texans against social media’s discriminatory viewpoint censorship falls within this general rule, allowing for government regulation of hosting or transmitting speech to ensure such channels of communication are open to all comers.
Pitman’s opinion errs by treating social media’s discriminatory censorship as “editorial discretion” that expresses a coherent “message” worthy of First Amendment protection like a newspaper op-ed page or a parade.
Unlike a newspaper editor or parade organizer, however, social media companies do not review all content they host; they review only a tiny fraction. A newspaper op-ed page or parade expresses the judgment of its editors and organizers with every article or marcher it includes, as well as with the newspaper or parade as a whole. By necessity, a newspaper or parade, given its limited size, exercises powerful editorial control over its content.
In contrast, a social media firm is a passive conduit. It rarely edits, and its infinite bandwidth gives it no need to edit. Moreover, platforms cannot express themselves in the billions of posts they cannot review. Nor can the platforms’ stealthy, inconsistent, and often hidden acts of content moderation constitute a coherent “message,” let alone an expression worthy of First Amendment protection.
Finally, non-discrimination requirements to refrain from discriminatory censorship of others do not burden the platform’s own speech because social media platforms are free to tweet or post as much as they’d like.
Secondly, the court should recognize that Texas can lawfully regulate social media because the platforms are common carriers. For centuries, common carrier laws have required certain industries that hold themselves out to the public to serve all without discrimination. Communications networks have always operated under these non-discrimination requirements. The Texas social media law simply applies these historical precedents to the modern public square: social media platforms.
Pitman ignores the centuries of cases in which courts and regulatory agencies imposed non-discrimination requirements on railroads, telephones, and internet firms and simply asserts that “this Court starts from the premise that social media platforms are not common carriers.”
The opinion justifies this finding with no precedent, but with circular reasoning that because social media companies currently discriminate, they cannot be regulated as common carriers. By Pitman’s reasoning, then, if a telephone company started to discriminate, the state of Texas could no longer regulate it as a common carrier.
Undermining the power of the state to regulate is indeed a strange move for liberals like Pitman, who generally welcome government power into every aspect of our lives. Pitman’s ruling reveals the left’s disturbing protectiveness of Big Tech and a preference for a public discourse controlled by content moderators.
Furthermore, in recognizing Big Tech’s deplatforming and censoring as a First Amendment-protected exercise of “editorial discretion,” the lower court is jeopardizing the bodies of civil rights and common carriage law by essentially asserting that discrimination is expression worthy of First Amendment protection.
Pitman and others on the left incorrectly view the First Amendment’s free speech guarantees as protecting Big Tech’s censorship, rather than preserving Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous concept of the vigorous marketplace of ideas.
It is long past time for states to impose non-discrimination requirements on Big Tech and to hold these companies accountable for their viewpoint censorship. The Fifth Circuit should recognize the substantial government interest in doing so and reverse the lower court’s error-ridden decision. The Texas law would serve the nation as a model for restoring our cherished principles of free speech.
DirecTV announced in January the digital satellite service would no longer carry One America News Network (OAN).
DirecTV announced in January the digital satellite service would no longer carry One America News Network (OAN), owned by Herring Networks. The decision prompted a lawsuit by OAN in response Tuesday, arguing that DirecTV’s refusal to carry OAN could shut it down entirely.
“We informed Herring Networks that, following a routine internal review, we do not plan to enter into a new contract when our current agreement expires,” the company told USA Today two months ago, without expanding on its definition of an “internal review.”
The decision to drop the channel by OAN’s largest distributor is expected to take OAN off DirecTV airwaves by the end of April and threatens the outlet’s ability to operate in a crowded media environment. It’s essentially canceling the network from cable. Six Republican attorneys general last week issued a letter asking DirecTV to reverse its decision to cancel OAN.
The move also signals a sharp escalation of the weaponizing private market power to silence political dissidents. Silicon Valley has already engaged in rampant censorship, complete with a routine purge of those who don’t propagate the party lines.
Former President Donald Trump, who was banned from Twitter and Facebook at the end of his presidency while the Kremlin remains active on both, condemned the corporate censorship on Monday after calling for a boycott of DirectTV last month if the company owned by AT&T follows through on its decision.
“Time Warner, the owner of Fake News CNN, has just announced that they will be terminating a very popular and wonderful news network (OAN),” Trump said in a statement. “Between heavily indebted Time Warner, and Radical Left comcast, which runs Xfinity, there is a virtual monopoly on news, thereby making what you hear from the LameStream Media largely FAKE, hence the name FAKE NEWS!”
Trump may have confused Time Warner and DirecTV. While DirecTV made its plans clear, no reporting as of this writing suggests Time Warner is planning to follow suit. Neither Time Warner nor representatives for OAN responded to The Federalist’s inquiries.
Corporate collusion to strip a network off the airwaves, beginning with DirecTV’s crusade against OAN, would set a dangerous precedent. The left’s strategy to ban its way to a monopoly on discourse includes opposition silencing and self-righteous fact-checking. Never mind strict standards of censoring disinformation would have kicked every leftist news network off air years ago from endless amplification of the Russian collusion hoax alone.
Today it’s OAN. Tomorrow it could be Newsmax, and eventually Fox News, a more likely predicament if the network didn’t make satellite distributors so much money.
But what’s behind DirecTV’s decision to target OAN? As of now, its rival conservative networks remain untouched.
The move ostensibly comes from sealed findings in the corporate powerhouse’s “internal review” of its relationship with OAN. A spokesperson told NPR in January rising programming costs was driving the decision. The review is likely a smokescreen for executives dissatisfied with the network’s narratives, especially its reporting on the 2020 election.
Three days after Election Day in 2020, AT&T, the majority owner of DirecTV, announced that William Kennard, an alum of both the Clinton and Obama administrations, would chair AT&T’s board of directors. Kennard is also listed as an executive board member of the global equity firm Staple Street Capital. In 2018, Staple Street Capital acquired Dominion Voting Systems, the electoral tabulation company that came under fire after the 2020 election.
Fox News and Newsmax retracted their networks’ reporting on Dominion Voting Systems in the aftermath of the 2020 contest. OAN has not.
Is DirecTV’s move to cancel OAN a business decision for the satellite provider? Or is it a political decision? Regardless, the cancellation of entire news networks by satellite providers is a new level of private censorship against non-leftist views.
Washington governor Jay Inslee seems unclear on the whole “no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech” concept:
What does he have in mind? Here’s what Inslee referenced.
The governor also assailed three Republican state lawmakers — Brad Klippert, Vicki Kraft and Robert Sutherland — who attended at taxpayer expense an election conspiracy theory conference in South Dakota last summer. The Seattle Times first reported the details of that trip earlier this week. “The defeated president and his allies, including some legislators in Washington state, are perpetuating the belief that this election was stolen from them,” Inslee said. “What do you think is going to happen if you perpetuate that belief? Of course violence can be happening as a result of that.”…The governor likened the rhetoric about elections being stolen to “yelling fire in a crowded theater.” “The defeated president as recently as an hour ago is yelling fire in the crowded theater of democracy,” Inslee said, referring to statements Trump issued Thursday. Those statements included: “Never forget the crime of the 2020 Presidential Election. Never give up!”
This is a straightforward effort to criminalize speech about politics. A broad spectrum of stolen-election and rigged-election theories have been widely circulated in the United States since at least the 1824 election, if not 1800. Most of them are lies, hokum, and hyperbole, but our system of political speech has always allowed an open contest in the marketplace of ideas to deal with that. As Inslee’s own state’s Supreme Court wrote in that 2007 case striking down a ban on candidates lying about each other, “The notion that the government, rather than the people, may be the final arbiter of truth in political debate is fundamentally at odds with the First Amendment.”
Moreover, this is specifically the kind of speech that it is common to hear from Democrats. Kamala Harris just hired a new communications director, Jamal Simmons, who tweeted less than a year ago — not for the first time — that he believed “W stole the 2000 elex.” And Simmons is, if anything, more temperate on the subject than many leading Democrats. Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, has long pushed a similar line, and in 2014, when Vox tweeted a poll saying that 68% of Americans think U.S. elections are rigged, Klain responded, “That’s because they are.”
Don’t hold your breath waiting for the likes of Jay Inslee to call for any of these people to be prosecuted. Presumably, what Inslee means when he limits this to lies “likely to incite or cause lawlessness” is that he will appeal to sympathetic courts to say that it’s only likely to incite that when his political opponents do it. But a rule-of-law system is supposed to mean one rule for everyone.
Note that the examples Inslee cites — legislators attending a conference, Donald Trump issuing a press release — are a far cry from the constitutional requirement of inciting imminent criminal action, a standard that would be imposing to apply even to Trump’s January 6 speech. As David Harsanyi has observed about the “fire in a crowded theater” canard:
This is probably the weakest – and the most infuriatingly overused — analogy used in efforts to restrict rights. The line, taken from Oliver Wendell Holmes’ decision in Schenck v. United States and subsequently repeated by thousands of censorship apologists since, was at the heart of one of the most egregious violations of free expression in American history. The Schenck decision allowed the Wilson administration to throw anti-war activists into prison for violating the Espionage Act of 1917. It’s difficult to think of a more legitimate exercise of political expression than debating war and peace. In any event, Schenck was basically overturned by the Brandenburg v. Ohio decision, which found that the First Amendment protects speech unless it is likely to incite “imminent lawless action,” which yelling “fire in a theater” does not.
It may be that Inslee was just engaging in a one-day January 6 message, but his press release sounds as if he actually intends to push this into law. That should deeply alarm friends of the classical liberal values of free speech and democracy. It would be one thing if we read a statement like this from some inexperienced young progressive firebrand. But Jay Inslee — who followed this up with an executive order permitting racial discrimination by the state government — is about as much of an experienced, establishment figure as exists in the Democratic Party. He’s been in public office almost continuously since 1989. He spent a decade and a half in Congress. He’s the longest-serving sitting governor in the United States. He ran for president in 2020. That he is pushing for laws to throw political opponents in jail over political speech should tell us how deep the rot is on free political speech among the Democrats.
Facebook admitted that its so-called “fact-checking” program is actually cranking out opinions used to censor certain viewpoints.
In its latest legal battle with TV journalist John Stossel over a post about the origins of the deadly 2020 California forest fires, Facebook, now rebranded and referred to as “Meta,” claims that its “fact-checking” program should not be the target of a defamation suit because its attempts to regulate content are done by third-party organizations who are entitled to their “opinion.”
Stossel’s original complaint questioned whether “Facebook and its vendors defame a user who posts factually accurate content, when they publicly announce that the content failed a ‘fact-check’ and is ‘partly false,’ and by attributing to the user a false claim that he never made?” Facebook, however, claimed that the counter article authored by Climate Feedback is not necessarily the tech giant’s responsibility.
Facebook went on to complain that Stossel’s problem isn’t with the Silicon Valley giants’ “labels” on his content but with the obscure organizations that Facebook employs to do its “fact-checking” dirty work.
“The labels themselves are neither false nor defamatory; to the contrary, they constitute protected opinion,” Facebook admitted. “And even if Stossel could attribute Climate Feedback’s separate webpages to Meta, the challenged statements on those pages are likewise neither false nor defamatory. Any of these failures would doom Stossel’s complaint, but the combination makes any amendment futile.
It’s no secret that Facebook uses its “fact-checking” program to curb information that it wants to be censored, and this November lawsuit gives more insight into the Big Tech company’s methods and twisted rationale.
“The independence of the fact checkers is a deliberate feature of Meta’s fact-checking program, designed to ensure that Meta does not become the arbiter of truth on its platforms,” the lawsuit stated before admitting that “Meta identifies potential misinformation for fact-checkers to review and rate. … [I]t leaves the ultimate determination whether information is false or misleading to the fact-checkers. And though Meta has designed its platforms so that fact-checker ratings appear next to content that the fact-checkers have reviewed and rated, it does not contribute to the substance of those ratings.”
A lot is going on in Washington right now that’s of momentous import, but the nation’s capital is not the only place making news. In California last week, legendary comedian Mort Sahl shuffled off his mortal coil at the age of 94.
Largely forgotten now, in the age of Eisenhower, Sahl was to political humor what “Saturday Night Live” has now been for several decades. Standing on stage, hip and cool, in a sweater and clutching a newspaper, he’d riff on current events in ways no one before him had managed to do. He was a giant of American humor and he changed stand-up for all time.
His passing is relevant today because he was, in his own way, the target of the cancel culture of his day. He came at things on a slant, undermining the conventional mores that contributed so much to the blandness of the 1950s. Sahl shook up the establishment. Not, perhaps, as much as Lenny Bruce and others would later do, but enough that his act clearly presaged the national shift toward youth and vigor represented by the Kennedys and Camelot.
Back in those days, the entertainment establishment was largely conservative. Network executives concerned about offending the heartland shied away from anything edgy. Their concerns allowed the McCarthy-inspired blacklisting of television and motion picture performers to briefly flourish. It was a sad time that shouldn’t have been forgotten.
It appears it has. Look no further than the vitriol directed at Dave Chappelle and Netflix over his latest special because he poked fun at some transgender shibboleths. It has led to calls for Chappelle to apologize, to be censored and to even be excommunicated from the business—and for Netflix to apologize.
Chappelle hasn’t caved and refuses to grovel. More power to him. Humor is very much a part of our humanity. There’s nothing out there we should be afraid to joke about—even things some people find grossly offensive. It’s part of who we are and it helps our common American civilization evolve.
The culture of political correctness is killing comedy. That’s a bad thing, and not just because it goes against the free speech culture that has contributed so much to making America an exceptional place. It also places limits on how we can talk about ourselves, our similarities and our differences. Putting restrictions on comedy impedes cultural change.
With that in mind, consider another instance in which cancel culture prevailed. In the late 1960s, the two-man comedy folk act The Smothers Brothers got a variety show on CBS. Aside from its stars, Tommy and Dick Smothers, its production team included people who made American humor what it is today. The Smothers may have still been brothers without the support of performers and writers like Steve Martin, David Steinberg, Rob Reiner, Bob Einstein, Lorenzo Music, Carl Gottlieb, Stan Burns and others, but they wouldn’t have had a hit show.
The “Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” was edgy without being offensive. It addressed tough issues like the Vietnam War, the developing drug culture, the increasing demands for female equality, the role of the police in society and the emergence of youth with wit, charm and creativity.
The public loved it but, as students of American humor know, both the Johnson and Nixon White Houses took much of what they did on-air as a personal affront. Bowing to political pressure, as David Bianculli brilliantly recounted in his book Dangerously Funny, the network began to put restrictions on the brothers that made it hard for them to do the show they wanted to do.
Eventually, the cancellers won and “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” was canceled. The brothers sued CBS and won, but the damage was already done. There was no turning back, even though the network gave them another show many years later. What people miss is that while canceling the show did not make the brothers any less funny, it did make the rest of us a little more sour.
Every year but one since 1998, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has given out the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor to someone who has “had an impact on American society in ways similar to” Mark Twain. It’s been given to Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Steve Martin, the aforementioned Dave Chappelle, Neil Simon, Bob Newhart, Lily Tomlin, Lorne Michaels and others who’ve made the nation live while also making it think.
It would strike a much-needed blow against cancel culture if the next award were to be given to Tom and Dick Smothers—not just because they made us laugh, but because they stood up in defense of the integrity of comedy and the way it acts as a mirror of society. If there’s anything more Twain-like than that, I can’t think of it.
The nation’s colleges and universities market themselves to prospective attendees and their families as places where academics and inquiry combine to produce well-rounded students capable of advanced thinking and prepared for the world of tomorrow. The reality, a recently published database of campus incidents shows, is quite different.
The College Fix, a website sponsored by the Student Free Press Association that provides student journalists with the opportunity to expose the insanities and inanities that occurred regularly in contemporary higher education recently compiled a database of incidents showing the so-called “cancel culture” to be alive, well, and growing throughout American institutions of higher learning.
The organization’s work, it says, is the first real attempt to quantify the problem. According to The Fix, the intolerant, politically correct crowd who are both socially prominent and academic decision-makers on so many campuses can claim, at minimum, to have taken “650 scalps” over the past ten years.
Among the outrages large and small identified in the database are:
–A move by the University of Pennsylvania to rename its Alice Paul Center – named for a suffragette who was instrumental in securing the passage and ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment giving women the right to vote – as the “Center for Research in Feminist, Queer, and Transgender Studies” to signal a “commitment” to LGBTQ “intellectual and political movements.”
–A public apology delivered in 2021 by the president of Muhlenberg College – a private college well known for its theater arts department – for a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado” put on in 2010 followed by the deletion of all the photos of the performance from the school’s website.
–The expulsion from the University of Louisville (KY) School of Medicine of fourth-year student Austin Clark, allegedly over his expression of pro-life beliefs school officials labeled unprofessional.
–The dismissal of Hannah Berliner Fischthal, an adjunct instructor at St. John’s University in Queens, NY after she read a passage containing the N-word from Twain’s anti-slavery novel “Pudd’nhead Wilson” in her “Literature of Satire” class – but not before first explaining the context of the word and saying she hoped it would not offend anyone.
“What we have witnessed over the last decade is nothing short of a new Red Guard enforcing its cultural revolution on American college campuses,” said Jennifer Kabbany, editor of The College Fix. “This database stands athwart the campaign to condemn, erase and rewrite our shared history.”
The number of incidents cited in the database amount to roughly one per week for every week for ten years. The College Fix said updates would be made regularly as part of an ongoing effort “to document every example of targeting and suppression in an age of censorship, memory-holing, and soft totalitarianism.” What has been uncovered so far, the group said, is likely just the tip of a very large iceberg “but there are likely more examples out there, and much more to come.”
A federal appellate court’s decision to rehear a case in which a controversial provision of 1996’s Communications Decency Act protecting Big Tech firms from civil suits because they are “distributors of content” rather than “publishers” is giving people hope the recent wave of Internet censorship may soon end.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second said July 16 it would rehear the arguments “en banc” following a ruling by a three-judge panel that upheld a lower court’s decision in Dorman v Vimeo, in which it was argued the tech platform was insulated from liability after it terminated the video streaming feed of a group posting videos of individuals saying they’d abandoned homosexuality to pursue a Christian way of living.
Vimeo, the Epoch Times reported, argued successfully its terms of service agreement prohibited the streaming of materials promoting “conversion therapy,” a controversial technique legislators in several blue states are currently trying to ban, especially for children under the age of 18. Others including the plaintiff argue however that the tech firm’s action is censorship and is damaging in both the legal and common sense of the word.
Robert Tyler, general counsel for the Advocates for Faith & Freedom said the decision to have the appeal reargued in front of the entire court puts the immunity provision of Section 230 “in the crosshairs of judicial review.”
“Section 230 was not intended to give Big Tech the right to exclude persons from their platform just because the customer is black, Muslim, white, Christian, homosexual, or formerly homosexual. That is plain invidious discrimination,” Tyler said.
The case is important because the digital age has moved the public square from inside the local community to well out into cyberspace. Facebook and Twitter are now the host of the national conversation, fueled by information people gather by using search engines like Google. This is a new reality, leaving more than a few conservatives fearful their opinions and publications and websites are being censored by the “woke” individuals inside the Big tech companies that make decisions about search engine rankings and what can be seen.
The appellate court’s latest action suggests Section 230, which many of its critics believe is the legal justification for online censorship, may not long survive. It is rare for an entire appellate court to rehear a case just to reaffirm a three-judge panel’s decision. Even if it doesn’t, however, those who follow tech platforms and the laws that govern them say there is no guarantee the censoring of individual messages, the de-platforming of people like former President Donald J. Trump, or the termination of services would come to an end if this one part of the CDA is ruled unconstitutional.
Without Section 230 protection – or something like it – platforms and Internet service companies might someday be held responsible for what appears on screens and servers in much the same way the publishers of newspapers are responsible for what appears in print. Not that it would get anyone very far. The bar for proving damages in cases where libel or defamation are alleged was high even before the United States Supreme Court sent it into the stratosphere in its 1964’s Times v Sullivan decision.
Now, the standard of proof in such cases is so rigorous it is rarely met and, even if it is, the requirements involved in proving damage are so onerous as to hardly be a deterrent to sloppy reporting, deliberate maligning, and censorship.
Trump’s recently announced class-action suit against Big Tech CEOs over his de-platforming may be another matter. He contends his first amendment rights were violated following the disruption inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by these companies acting as agents of the federal government. If he can prove that to be the case, it invokes constitutional scrutiny and potentially tilts the outcome in Trump’s favor.
Ultimately, the court will probably rule in a way that protects the most speech for the most people. The first amendment is an American absolute, not necessarily applicable in all cases – the government can’t imprison me over what I tell my children – but we generally believe as a country that even private institutions should give the amendment due deference. If Big Tech can be shown to have failed in this regard, the consequences could be interesting.