According to the lawsuit brought by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana, the federal government exercised its influence in order to pressure social media companies to suppress speech that was critical of the government’s COVID-19 response, the now-likely theory that the pandemic began in a lab, the Hunter Biden laptop, and more.
In his ruling, Judge Doughty wrote that “the evidence produced thus far depicts an almost dystopian scenario…the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth.’” While the Biden Administration is likely to appeal this case, Judge Doughty is exactly right. Recently unearthed evidence—including the release of the “Twitter Files” after the company’s acquisition by Elon Musk—shows that numerous White House Officials were working hand in hand with major tech companies to find, flag, and censor speech that questioned the government’s narrative and sought to suppress negative stories about Joe Biden in the leadup to the 2020 election.
America’s Founders enshrined the First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech at the top of the Bill of Rights to prevent this very thing. In their minds, this ban on suppressing free speech was essential because free speech is a precondition of self-government. If the people cannot debate the issues for themselves, reason through problems, and come to solutions, then there is no way to remain a self-governing republic. This sort of open debate, where the best ideas can win out in the public square, sits at the heart of the Western heritage from the Socratic method to the First Amendment, and it is the only system worthy of a free and independent people.
But there is another benefit to free speech besides preserving the notion of self-governance. Free speech also helps find truth and hold those in power to account. As Judge Doughty pointed out, so many of the issues the government was trying to suppress ended up being right: the idea that COVID-19 likely originated in a lab, that Hunter Biden’s laptop was actually his and contained evidence of criminal activity, and that the government far overstepped its bounds in depriving Americans of their rights under the guise of pandemic protocols.
We all saw firsthand the lies and deception that have come from the federal government over the recent years. All the great tyrannies of history have suppressed freedom of speech because tyrants understand that free thought, open inquiry, and a thirst for liberty will ultimately lead to their downfall.
Our Founding Fathers gave us freedom of speech to protect against this tyrannical impulse—an impulse that is growing stronger and stronger in America today. Freedom of speech is one of the fundamental values that our nation was built upon, and it is shocking to see the evidence of government officials collaborating with private companies to shut down voices that they disagree with.
There is no better day to release such a ruling than July 4th, which should remind all Americans that we must stay vigilant in defense of our rights as our country faces an uncertain future.