The House Judiciary Committee has initiated legal action against Elvis Chan, an FBI agent that documents show was implication in prominent censorship of online speech.
This move, made on Tuesday, stems from Chan’s non-compliance with a subpoena, directly challenging the committee’s probe into the suppression of certain viewpoints on social media platforms.
The legal complaint asserts that Chan, who holds the position of Assistant Special Agent in Charge in California, deliberately ignored the subpoena under the guidance of the Department of Justice.
We obtained a copy of the lawsuit for you here.
The lawsuit states:
“After public reporting revealed that the Executive Branch was coercing and colluding with technology companies and other intermediaries to censor online speech, the Judiciary Committee launched an investigation into how and to what extent agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were working to interfere with the marketplace of ideas and suppress the voices of the American people. The ultimate purpose of this investigation is to develop legislative reforms, such as new statutory limits on the Executive Branch’s ability to work with social media companies and other entities to restrict the circulation of content online and deplatform users. And to do so, the Committee must first fully understand the nature of the problem.”
The complaint goes on to say that the investigation identified Chan as a “pivotal figure in its investigation” and that “publicly available information indicated, and information uncovered during the Committee’s investigation to date has confirmed, that Chan was at the heart of the FBI’s interactions with technology companies, including Facebook and Twitter.
The DOJ’s stance, which opposes the committee’s deposition and interview guidelines, is at the center of this legal confrontation.
Central to this dispute is the insistence from Chan and the DOJ that he be allowed representation by both his personal and government counsel during his deposition with the committee. This request clashes with the long-standing policy of the committee, which permits only one form of counsel to accompany witnesses.
The committee, in its lawsuit, has accused the DOJ of lacking legal basis for its position, emphasizing the constitutional authority granted to Congress to set its own procedural rules.
In their suit, the committee highlights Chan’s self-description as a key conduit of information to these companies, information that influenced their decisions to restrict online content.
Chan’s involvement extends beyond this case. He was previously deposed in Missouri v. Biden (now Murthy v. Missouri), where two Republican state attorneys general accused the federal government of First Amendment violations by pressuring social media firms to censor certain speech, including discussions on COVID-19, Hunter Biden’s laptop, and election matters. Chan was a part of regular discussions with these companies, aimed at addressing foreign influence activities.
Moreover, the committee’s lawsuit notes Chan’s leadership in a team of FBI agents who engaged with social media companies on the topic of “disinformation.”
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