Federal judge grants depositions of Fauci, Biden admin officials over social media censorship

A federal judge ordered depositions from Dr. Anthony Fauci, former White House press secretary Jen Psaki and other officials in a lawsuit that accuses the Biden administration of pressuring Big Tech to censor online speech.

Judge Terry A. Doughty said emails by Dr. Fauci, who is the White House chief medical adviser, prove that he was “acting as an intermediary for others in order to censor information” from being shared.

“After reviewing the Plaintiffs and the Defendants’ arguments, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have proven that Dr. Fauci has personal knowledge about the issue concerning censorship across social media as it related to COVID-19 and ancillary issues of COVID-19,” Judge Doughty wrote Friday.

Judge Doughty granted the request in a lawsuit by the attorneys general of Louisiana and Missouri that challenges the online censorship as a violation of the First Amendment rights of citizens in their states. 

The lawsuit alleges that the administration sought to coerce Big Tech through implicit or direct threats to weaken its dominance, including supporting antitrust legislation, increasing privacy regulation, and removing the shield that protects platforms from liability for content posted by users.

Judge Doughty, who is hearing the case in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, issued similar orders on Friday for depositions of Ms. Psaki and officials from the White House, FBI, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, State Department, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said the judge’s ruling will expose the government officials’ actions to the American public.

“It is high time we shine a light on this censorship enterprise and force these officials to come clean to the American people, and this ruling will allow us to do just that,” Mr. Schmitt said in a statement on Friday. “We’ll keep pressing for the truth.”

The judge previously rejected the Biden administration’s assertion of executive privilege to shield government officials from records requests and ordered that the officials answer questions.

Dr. Fauci and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases he directs did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Previously, NIAID has said it does not comment on litigation.

Mr. Schmitt, who is running for U.S. Senate, and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry filed the lawsuit earlier this year, detailing what they described as a sprawling “censorship enterprise” within the Biden White House to pressure Facebook, Google, Twitter and other social media outlets to suppress speech the administration dislikes.

Inappropriate speech, according to the lawsuit, includes questioning whether the virus that causes COVID-19 originated in a Chinese lab, the effectiveness of masks and the veracity of 2020 election results.

SEE ALSO: TikTok denies new report that it tracks Americans’ location data, targets individuals

The lawsuit said the full impact of the censorship remains unknown.

“These federal bureaucrats leveraged their clout and pressure on social media platforms to become deeply embedded in a joint enterprise with social media companies to procure the censorship of private citizens’ speech on social media,” the attorneys general wrote. “When the federal government colludes with Big Tech to censor speech, the American people become subjects rather than citizens.”

All told, the case names 54 individuals as defendants, including President Biden, Dr. Fauci, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, and scores of agency communications officials. The FBI, Census Bureau, departments of Justice, Commerce, Treasury, State and HHS are among 13 agencies listed as defendants.

• Jeff Mordock contributed to this report.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

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