EXCLUSIVE: Two GOP-led states filed a lawsuit against President Biden, White House press secretary Jen Psaki, Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top administration officials alleging that they "pressured and colluded" with Big Tech social media companies to censor and suppress information on the Hunter Biden laptop story, COVID-19 origins and security of voting by mail during the pandemic.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry filed the lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. The suit accuses top ranking government officials of working with the giant social media companies Meta, Twitter and YouTube "under the guise of combating misinformation" in order to achieve greater censorship.
The lawsuit names Nina Jankowicz, the head of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) new "Disinformation Governance Board," which has received severe backlash from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers for limiting free speech. Lawmakers have expressed concern specifically with the appointment of Jankowicz, who promoted the widely-discredited Christopher Steele dossier and repeated the narrative that Hunter Biden's laptop was a product of a Russian disinformation campaign.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Jen Easterly are also named as defendants in the filing.
The lawsuit alleges that the federal government violated constitutional rights to suppress free speech in "one of its greatest assaults by federal government officials in the Nation’s history."
The defendants allegedly "coerced, threatened, and pressured social media platforms to censor disfavored speakers and viewpoints by using threats of adverse government action," according to the filing.
The filing states: "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 suit looks at several specific examples where social media companies allegedly removed "truthful" information and trampled on First Amendment freedoms – the Hunter Biden laptop story, the COVID-19 Wuhan lab-leak theory, COVID-19 mask efficacy and messaging on the security of voting by mail.
"In direct contravention to the First Amendment and freedom of speech, the Biden Administration has been engaged in a pernicious campaign to both pressure social media giants to censor and suppress speech and work directly with those platforms to achieve that censorship in a misguided and Orwellian campaign against ‘misinformation,’" Schmitt told Fox News Digital in an exclusive statement.
"I will not stand idly by while the Biden Administration attempts to trample on the First Amendment rights of Missourians and Americans."
"Big Tech has become an extension of Biden’s Big Government, and neither are protecting the freedoms of Americans; rather, they are suppressing truth and demonizing those who think differently," said Landry. "Ripped from the playbook of Stalin and his ilk, Biden has been colluding with Big Tech to censor free speech and propagandize the masses. We are fighting back to ensure the rule of law and prevent the government from unconstitutional banning, chilling, and stifling of speech."
The attorneys general focus in their lawsuit on how Twitter blocked postings of a 2020 New York Post story, including contents of Hunter Biden's laptop that was recovered from a repair shop in Delaware. The tech company labeled the story as "potentially harmful," and disabled sharing the link to the published story. The lawmakers say that now, over a year later, the Washington Post and the New York Times acknowledged the truthful reporting of the original story, revealing Twitter's motive to suppress free speech.
In addition, Landry and Schmitt write that Facebook censored posts that mentioned the COVID-19 lab-leak theory, which states the virus may have accidentally leaked out of a Wuhan, China, lab. The lawsuit alleges that Fauci orchestrated a campaign to "discredit" the theory, while at the same time was "exchanging emails with Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, regarding the control and dissemination of COVID-19 information." The company only began to stop its censorship of lab-leak theory posts after other media outlets began to report on the viability of the theory, according to the attorneys general.
The lawsuit also points to YouTube's censorship of conservative leaders Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for questioning the effectiveness of wearing cloth masks during the pandemic.
Another cited example was a June 2021 press briefing with White House press secretary Jen Psaki and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, during which the Biden officials said that social media companies, including Facebook, should be doing more to fight "misinformation" around health and the pandemic.
The filing states that Murthy said during the briefing: "We’re saying we expect more from our technology companies. .... We’re asking them to monitor misinformation more closely. We’re asking them to consistently take action against misinformation super-spreaders on their platforms."
The lawsuit also mentions social media censoring of speech about the security of voting by mail in the 2020 election, in conjunction with Democratic messaging on the topic.
"Notoriously, social-media platforms aggressively censored core political speech by then-President Trump and the Trump campaign raising concerns about the security of voting by mail in the run-up to the November 2020 presidential election," the filing states.
The issue of the new DHS disinformation board is also paramount to the attorneys general, who state that it's a cumulation of the Biden administration officials' "campaign of censorship."
The attorneys general are asking the court to find that the Biden administration's actions violate the First Amendment and exceeds its statutory authority, and stop the officials from continuing to engage in their "unlawful" conduct to suppress free speech. In addition, they specifically claim that the DHS and HHS officials' conduct violates the Administrative Procedure Act to "hold unlawful and set aside final agency actions" that are deemed to be an abuse of power and arbitrary and capricious.
The lawsuit comes as Twitter recently announced it agreed to be acquired by Tesla CEO Elon Musk for $44 billion. Musk has committed to ensuring that free speech is protected on the platform, and tweeted last week that Twitter's suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story was "obviously incredibly inappropriate."
Meta, Twitter and YouTube did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital's request for comment on the lawsuit. The White House also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.