Blocking CDC, FBI, And White House From Censorship – Federal Appeals Court Upholds Injunction

 September 11, 2023

On Friday, blocking the White House and federal agencies from pressuring social media companies to censor American citizens, a federal appeals court upheld a modified version of an injunction in the landmark Missouri v. Biden case.

However, two major agencies of the federal government, the State Department and the Cybersecurity / Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) were exempted from the modified injunction, upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Subject to the injunction, the named agencies and individuals-

 “shall take no actions, formal or informal, directly or indirectly, to coerce or significantly encourage social-media companies to remove, delete, suppress, or reduce, including through altering their algorithms, posted social-media content containing protected free speech. That includes, but is not limited to, compelling the platforms to act, such as by intimating that some form of punishment will follow a failure to comply with any request, or supervising, directing, or otherwise meaningfully controlling the social-media companies’ decision-making processes.”

-Ruling of U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

In an obvious win for opponents of online censorship, the entire FBI remains blocked from demanding censorship from social media companies under the new injunction, as is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the White House press secretary, and a host of other Biden officials who applied pressure to the tech platforms during the coronavirus pandemic. The prohibition is expected  to have a significant impact.

The Fifth Circuit justices, noted in their decision, that the FBI’s content-flagging operations in 2020 and 2022  had led to content being removed by the social media platforms, a whopping 50 percent of the time. The FBI’s central role in what some are calling the “censorship-industrial complex” has been well documented by the plaintiffs, in Missouri  v. Biden. This is true also, of the investigations done by the House Judiciary Committee, and the recent disclosures from the Twitter Files.

The injunction, exempting the CISA from the order, drew criticism from Mike Benz, a former State Department official and head of the Foundation for Freedom Online, a nonprofit that monitors online censorship. While praising the ruling in general, Benz described the exemption of CISA as “utter insanity.”

CISA had reportedly worked closely with the infamous “Election Integrity Partnership” throughout the 2020 election, flagging posts through the EIP’s dashboard that were then funneled to social media companies for censorship. News outlets, as well as private individuals, mostly conservative, were targeted by the EIP.

CISA executive director Brandon Wales has denied allegations that it censors Americans. Wales responded to the allegations saying-

“CISA does not and has never censored speech or facilitated censorship; any such claims are patently false,” … “In response to concerns from election officials of all parties regarding foreign influence operations and disinformation that may impact the security of election infrastructure, CISA mitigates the risk of disinformation by sharing information on election literacy and election security with the public and by amplifying the trusted voices of election officials across the nation.”

-Brandon Wales, CISA Executive Director

Like letting a fox guard the henhouse, believing that CISA will support first amendment speech, is likely why Benz called their exemption – “insanity”. Their well-founded level of collusion to censor media companies and individuals, while they may contest it – has been proven both by the courts and the U.S House Judiciary Committee.

This agency will need watched like a hawk, to see moving forward that they are policed in this arena. Time will tell their impact on the upcoming elections. Protecting America’s first amendment right is the bedrock of our constitutional freedoms – lest they be walked all over by the still eager “censorship-industrial complex”.

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

-Harry S. Truman

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