CEO of the Brennan Center Michael Waldman said Thursday censorship of conservatives is just a “conspiracy theory” despite evidence to the contrary.
Waldman joined MSNBC to discuss the recent ruling from Judge Terry A. Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. Doughty issued an injunction Tuesday ruling the Biden administration and other federal agencies suppressed free speech in an “Orwellian” manner during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Doughty ruled members of the Biden administration, including officials with the FBI and Department of Health and Human Services, could not communicate with social media companies for “the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.”
Republican attorneys general of Louisiana and Missouri had alleged Biden officials “went too far” in their efforts to stifle discussion of topics such as election integrity and vaccines. Facebook, for example, allegedly took direction from the CDC regarding COVID-19 moderation and fact-checking policies throughout 2021, according to documents published by Reason in January.
MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell said the ruling was a “major national security issue,” citing other officials. (RELATED: ‘If It Was A Different Administration You Might Have A Different Take’: CNBC Hosts Spar Over Biden Censorship Ruling)
“Michael, from conversations I’ve had with national security officials, this is a major issue for them in terms of election security,” Mitchell said.
“They cannot notify people if they have a known instance of election interference. They cannot notify — according to our own contributor Andrew Weissmann, he as FBI general counsel was notifying people overseas that — that social media was endangering the lives of people, of government officials overseas,” Mitchell continued.
“It is an extraordinarily broad, even radical ruling in many ways, made by one trial judge before a trial and before there was even discovering the case, listening to two very conservative Republican attorneys general basically putting into the log of the conspiracy theory idea that somehow the government’s been censoring social media and keeping conservative voices off,” Waldman said.
“This is a potentially very significant threat to the ability to stop election interference. We know that, for example, Russia in 2016 made use of these social media platforms. We know that there’s massive potential for disinformation. We know that AI only takes that up to the next level. And what this ruling says is that the State Department, all these public health doctors, the entire Department of Health and Human Services, cannot even talk to these companies. You got to protect the First Amendment. Nobody should be ordering content off, but it’s a very, very far reaching and potentially very damaging action by this one judge.”
Facebook and Andy Slavitt, the Biden administration’s former COVID czar, allegedly had regular communications to discuss the suppression of COVID-19 “misinformation,” the suit brought by Louisiana and Missouri alleges. Slavitt also allegedly pressured Twitter to ban vaccine and lockdown critic Alex Berenson on April 21, 2021. Berenson had been criticized for his claims that the vaccine side effects were more dangerous or severe than the flu shot.
Other communications from the Executive Office of the President to Youtube about the platform’s COVID vaccine policy were also allegedly discovered, with official Rob Flaherty allegedly accusing YouTube of “intensifying people’s [vaccine] hesitancy” before allegedly asking to know “what is going on under the hood here.”
Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki also said during a July 2021 press briefing the administration was “flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.”