Zachary Stieber reports at Epoch Times Judge Rejects Biden Administration’s Attempt to Block Depositions in Big Tech-Government Censorship Case. Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.
U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty, a Trump appointee, rejected a request for a partial stay of his Oct. 21 order authorizing the depositions of eight officials, including President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Government lawyers asked the judge to impose the partial stay as an appeals court weighs a request to vacate the part of his order that enables the depositions of Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a Biden appointee; Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly, a Biden appointee; and Rob Flaherty, a deputy assistant to the president.
Absent a stay, “high-ranking governmental officials would be diverted from their significant duties and burdened in both preparing and sitting for a deposition, all of which may ultimately prove to be unnecessary if the Court of Appeals grants” their request, the government said.
Doughty ruled that the government failed to show how the officials would be irreparably harmed apart from referencing a diversion from “significant duties.” That didn’t meet the standard for showing irreparable harm, he said.
From the Judge’s MEMORANDUM ORDER
For the reasons set forth herein, Federal Defendants’ Corrected Motion for Partial Stay is DENIED. (Excerpts in italics with my bolds.)
1. Surgeon General Murthy
Details regarding the allegations as to Murthy are set forth in the Memorandum Order Regarding Witness Depositions. Murthy was found to have first-hand knowledge by (1) publicly criticizing tech companies by asserting they were responsible for COVID-19 deaths due to their failure to censor “mis-information”; (2) issuing a Request for Information on March 2, 2022, requesting tech companies to provide him with “mis-information”; and (3) engaging in communication with high-level Facebook executives about greater censorship of COVID-19 “misinformation.”
Although Murthy was a high-ranking official, the potential burden imposed on Murthy was outweighed by the need to determine whether First Amendment rights of free speech have been suppressed. The Court found exceptional circumstances were present and that the substantive reasons for taking the deposition were sufficient.
2. CISA Director Jen Easterly
Details of the allegations as they relate to Easterly are set forth in the Memorandum Order Regarding Witness Depositions. Easterly was found to have first-hand knowledge by (1) supervising the “nerve center” of federally directed censorship; (2) directly flagging alleged “misinformation” to social media companies for censorship; (3) stating that social media speech by Americans is a form of infrastructure that allows the CISA to police online speech; (4) being involved in extensive oral communications and meetings between CISA officials and social-media platforms; and (5) being personally involved in text messages specifically discussing how greater censorship of social-media platforms would be done by exerting federal pressure on social-media platforms to increase censorship.
The Court also conducted its analysis of Easterly as if she were a high-ranking official and found that her personal knowledge required her deposition. The Court further found that the burden upon her was outweighed by the need to determine whether First Amendment free speech rights are being suppressed. The Court found exceptional circumstances were present and that the substantive reasons for taking the deposition were sufficient.
3. White House Director of Digital Strategy Rob Flaherty
Details of the allegations as to Flaherty are set forth in the Memorandum Order Regarding Witness Depositions. Flaherty was found to have first-hand knowledge by (1) having extensive oral meetings with social-media platforms including Twitter, Meta and You-Tube on vaccine hesitancy and combatting “mis-information”; (2) directly communicating with Meta’s director of U.S. Public Policy through “Covid Insight Reports” (which details trends/posts by social media users on Meta); (3) Meta’s reporting to Flaherty about Meta’s intentions to censor disfavored opinions about vaccine effectiveness for new groups for which vaccines were authorized; (4) having specific knowledge on Meta’s attempts to censor groups referred to by Flaherty as the “Disinformation Dozen”; and (5) being aware of the President-Elect-Joe Biden transition team’s efforts to stifle “mis-information” through Meta.
The Court also assumed that Flaherty was a high-ranking official and conducted its analysis
as such. It found special circumstances were present to take his deposition. The Court further found the burden upon Flaherty was outweighed by the need to determine whether First Amendment free speech rights are being suppressed; therefore, the substantive reasons for taking his deposition were sufficient.
For the reasons set forth herein, the Court also finds Federal Defendants are not likely to
succeed on the merits of their mandamus petition.
Background from previous post: Fed Govt./Big Tech Censorship Lawsuit: 47 New Biden People Added
Zachary Stieber writes at Epoch Times 47 New Biden Administration Defendants Named in Government–Big Tech Censorship Lawsuit. Excerpts in italic with my bolds.
Nearly 50 new government defendants have been added to the lawsuit that alleges the government induced censorship of state officials and others on social media.
The second amended complaint in the case, Missouri v. Biden, includes six new agencies, bringing the total to 13, and 41 new individual defendants, bringing the total to 54.
Altogether, 67 officials or agencies are accused of violating plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights by participating in a “censorship enterprise” through pressuring Big Tech firms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter to take action against users offering alleged misinformation.
Evidence backing the claims has been produced in discovery, including exchanges between White House officials and Meta, Facebook’s parent company and messages showing meetings between administration officials and the firms.
The new defendants include the FBI; former White House senior COVID-19 adviser Andrew Slavitt; Dana Remus, counsel to President Joe Biden; Elvis Chan, an FBI special agent based in San Francisco; Janell Muhammed, deputy digital director at the Department of Health and Human Services; Allison Snell, an official at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency; the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); the State Department; and Mark Robbins, interim executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
One or more of the Big Tech firms that were subpoenaed in the case identified the officials as possibly communicating with them on content moderation relating to “COVID-19 misinformation,” the New York Post’s story about Hunter Biden’s laptop, the administration’s since-disbanded Disinformation Governance Board, and/or “election security, integrity, outcomes, and/or public confidence in election outcomes (not to include issues of foreign interference or related issues).”
Slavitt was named because emails show he was in communication with Facebook regarding the combating of alleged misinformation. The messages show that Facebook was committed to censoring and de-emphasizing posts that were “departing from the government’s messaging on vaccines,” plaintiffs said. Slavitt also called for Twitter to ban Alex Berenson, an independent journalist, previously released messages show.
Muhammed, meanwhile, was in touch with Facebook to ask the company to take down pages and accounts that were allegedly misrepresenting themselves as representing the government. “Absolutely,” one of the Facebook employees responded.
Other discovery suggests the FDA “has participated in federally-induced censorship of private speech on social media about questions of vaccine safety and efficacy, among other subjects,” plaintiffs said.
The agencies that were added to the case did not respond to requests for comment.
U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty, a Trump appointee overseeing the case, recently ordered defendants named in earlier complaints to comply with demands, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top medical adviser to Biden. The new documents do not include any more information from Fauci or the White House press secretary’s office.
The four groups in question – Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO), the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, and social media analytics firm Graphika – comprise the “Election Integrity Partnership,” which exists as a ‘concierge-like’ service for federal agencies such as Homeland’s Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and State’s Global Engagement Center to flag online content for censorship or monitoring by Big Tech using a “ticket” system.
Unsurprisingly, the head of Stanford’s Internet Observatory is a Clinton donor who previously served as Facebook’s Head of Security – while the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public is largely funded by the Knight Foundation, whose board exclusively contributes to Democrat or Neocon entities.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration empowered three liberal groups to file tickets seeking censorship; the Democratic National Committee, Common Cause and the NAACP.