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Exclusive: Schmitt Probes Federal Censors’ Efforts To ‘Trample’ Americans’ Speech

‘For this Administration to resume efforts with social media companies to control constitutionally protected speech months before the 2024 election is beyond comprehension.’

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Missouri’s junior senator is demanding federal agencies provide records related to their renewed efforts to censor online comments they claim contain “disinformation” ahead of the 2024 election.

In a May 22 letter obtained by The Federalist, Republican Sen. Eric Schmitt demands that FBI Director Christopher Wray and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas divulge materials relevant to their agencies’ coordination with Big Tech to suppress information government employees deem unfavorable to the federal government. The request cites remarks earlier this month from Virginia Democrat Sen. Mark Warner, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Warner let it slip that the FBI and DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) are working with social media companies to, as NextGov/FCW described, “remov[e] disinformation on their sites as the November presidential election nears.”

An FBI representative later confirmed to The Federalist the agency has, in fact, resumed communications with Big Tech platforms. A CISA spokeswoman declined to comment on the matter.

“This activity between the government and social media companies runs contrary to the fundamental beliefs of our nation,” Schmitt wrote. “…Resuming this egregious practice demonstrates this Administration’s insatiable desire to stop at nothing to trample the free speech rights of millions of Americans in order to maintain power.”

Schmitt cited numerous examples of the federal government’s censorship-industrial complex, including the notorious Election Integrity Partnership (EIP). According to a November interim report released by House Republicans, the EIP is a “consortium of ‘disinformation’ academics” spearheaded by the Stanford Internet Observatory that coordinated with DHS “to monitor and censor Americans’ online speech” leading up to the 2020 election.

Created “at the request” of CISA — which critics refer to as the “nerve center” of the federal government’s censorship operations —the EIP allowed federal officials to “launder [their] censorship activities in hopes of bypassing both the First Amendment and public scrutiny.” As documented in the interim report, this operation attempted to censor “true information, jokes and satire, and political opinions” and sent targeted posts from prominent conservative figures to Big Tech companies for censorship.

The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway and Sean Davis are among those the government censorship campaign targeted.

Schmitt also highlighted how the federal government “significantly entangled itself to influence and pressure social media companies’ decisions” ahead of the 2022 elections. He noted the FBI’s role in “establish[ing] a ‘command’ process in which it would flag posts and content that it deemed disinformation with social media companies,” which he noted “often targeted the voices of American citizens and their posts about the 2022 election.”

“For this Administration to resume efforts with social media companies to control constitutionally protected speech months before the 2024 election is beyond comprehension,” the senator writes.

Prior to representing Missouri in the U.S. Senate, Schmitt served as the Show Me State’s attorney general. In that role, he filed a lawsuit alongside then-Louisiana AG and now-Gov. Jeff Landry in 2022 alleging that the Biden administration’s collusion with Big Tech to suppress Americans’ online speech violates the First Amendment. U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty agreed, issuing a preliminary injunction on July 4, 2023, barring federal agencies from colluding with Big Tech to censor posts they don’t like.

In his ruling, Doughty wrote, “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 Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Doughty’s injunction in September. While the initial ruling did not include CISA, the court later issued a corrected ruling to also prevent CISA from colluding with Big Tech to squash free speech online.

The U.S. Supreme Court, however, lifted the Fifth Circuit’s injunction in October, effectively allowing the federal government’s censorship operations to resume while it considers the merits of the case. SCOTUS is expected to issue a final ruling on the merits of Murthy v. Missouri this summer.

In closing his letter, Schmitt demanded Wray and Mayorkas divulge information about their agencies’ renewed collusion with Big Tech companies, including the exact date upon which such communications resumed, “all and any safeguards established by the Administration to protect the First Amendment rights of American citizens,” all safeguards to protect the “political speech of potential political opponents of President Biden,” and “a list of topics that the Administration deems misinformation or disinformation,” among other records.

Wray and Mayorkas have until June 3 to fulfill Schmitt’s requests, according to the letter.

5-22-24 Sen. Schmitt Corres… by The Federalist


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