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Political Litigation

Judge Rejects Biden Administration Request for Dismissal of “Censorship” Lawsuit

— May 10, 2024

The lawsuit, led by the Texas Attorney General’s Office and two conservative media outlets, claims that the Biden administration has given social media websites a free pass to “deplatform” right-leaning news organizations.

A federal judge has rejected a Biden administration request to dismiss a censorship lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and two conservative media outlets.

According to Reuters, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Kernodle on Tuesday found that Texas—along with its co-plaintiffs, The Daily Wire and The Federalist—had taken sufficient steps to establish the legal standing needed to file claims against the federal Department of State.

In his ruling, Kernodle cited allegations that the State Department appears to have encouraged social media companies to “deplatform” the plaintiff newspapers—possibly in violation of a Texas state law that prohibits censorship based on political perspective and belief.

“In December 2023, Attorney General Paxton sued the U.S. Department of State … and other government officials over their conspiracy to censor, deplatform, and demonetize media outlets disfavored by the federal government,” Paxton’s office wrote in a press release. “Through its ‘Global Engagement Center,’ which was only authorized to counter foreign propaganda, the State Department actively intervened in the news-media market to limit the reach and business viability of domestic news organizations by funding censorship technology and private censorship enterprises.”

“The [Department of State] unlawfully weaponized the center to violate the First Amendment and suppress Americans’ constitutionally protected speech,” the attorney general added.

A 2013 image of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user:Alice Linahan Voices Empower. (CCA-BY-2.0).

The lawsuit suggests that the Department of State and its Global Engagement Center enabled censorship by providing grants to two organizations: the United Kingdom-based Global Disinformation Index, and NewsGuard.

Both the Global Disinformation Index and NewsGuard develop tools that help social media platforms assess the veracity of news stories posted to their platforms—tools which the plaintiffs claim are disproportionately inclined to cast doubt on conservative perspectives.

The Biden administration had earlier characterized the allegations as “hyperbolic,” and said that Paxton’s complaint simply intends to circumvent an appeals court order preventing enforcement of the state’s anti-censorship bill.

Kernodle, though, appears to have largely agreed with Texas’s politically-charged interpretation of events.

“Here, Texas alleges that its injury is the predictable result of Defendants’ deliberate efforts to market and promote the censorship tools and technologies to social media platforms,” Kernodle wrote. “The Court agrees.”

Kernodle, a Trump appointee, also said that the Daily Wire and Federalist had standing, since their pages were purportedly suppressed or removed from social media platforms at the State Department’s behest.

Attorneys for the New Civil Liberties Alliance, which is representing the media plaintiffs, said that her organization “looks forward to expedited discovery on this unlawful weaponization of government resources and power.


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