Biden Administration Pushes Back Against Request For an Injunction Against Government-Directed Censorship

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The Biden administration’s lawyers appeared in front of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit this month and urged the judge not to grant an injunction that would prevent the federal government from directing social media platforms to censor user content.

The request for the injunction was filed by the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), a legal group that’s representing theoretical cognitive scientist Mark Changizi, attorney and author Michael P. Senger, and stay-at-home father Daniel Kotzin in a lawsuit that alleges the Biden admin violated the First Amendment by pressuring Twitter to censor so-called Covid-19 “misinformation.”

The trio spearheading this lawsuit are Michael P. Senger, an attorney and author, Mark Changizi, a theoretical cognitive scientist, and Daniel Kotzin, a stay-at-home dad. All three have leveraged their Twitter accounts to voice criticisms of government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions and to question narratives endorsed by health authorities.

Twitter took adverse action against these individuals, which the lawsuit contends is the outcome of federal pressure to censor. Senger’s account, which boasted 112,000 followers, was permanently disabled on March 8, 2022. Meanwhile, Changizi’s account, which had accrued 37,000 followers, was permanently banned on December 18, 2021, but later reinstated following an appeal; he also reports that his account has been subjected to heavy censorship and de-boosting since May 2021. Lastly, Kotzin’s account, with 29,700 followers, has faced suspension twice.

The three allege that Twitter censored their accounts in response to pressure from the Biden administration and there has been much evidence showing the administration pressuring social media platforms to curb “misinformation.”

The legal documentation draws upon a pattern of communications from government officials which it characterizes as a “coordinated and escalating campaign.” Among the communications cited is a 2021 statement from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, indicating President Joe Biden’s stance that technology platforms bear the responsibility to curb misinformation about COVID-19 vaccinations. Furthermore, it references the Surgeon General’s advisory from July 2021 urging technology companies to address misinformation and his subsequent demand in March 2022 for tech companies to divulge COVID misinformation data.

The lawsuit accuses the Surgeon General, HHS, and the Biden administration of weaponizing Twitter and other tech companies to fulfill their objective of muzzling opinions that are not aligned with the White House’s official stance on COVID-19.

The lawsuit was filed in March 2022 and dismissed by a lower court in May 2022. NCLA lodged an appeal with the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and asked for an injunction that would stop the federal government from pressuring tech platforms to censor content. The court agreed to hear the NCLA’s appeal on June 15th.

During the hearing, the Biden administration’s lawyer argued that NCLA’s requested injunction against the federal government is “very broadly worded” and won’t “address some injury” that the defendants have suffered because Twitter has already stopped enforcing its Covid misinformation policy.

The federal government lawyers also claimed that Twitter’s censorship actions were “voluntary,” “independent of the government,” “didn’t cause the injuries plaintiffs are complaining about,” and “it’s not redressable by an injunction against the government.”

NCLA Senior Litigation Counsel John Vecchione pushed back against the Biden admin lawyers by noting that none of his appellants were banned from Twitter “until the government started putting pressure on Twitter.” He added: “Nobody was banned before the government started talking.”

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