Sen. Eric Schmitt Investigates Government Attempt to Suppress Free Speech

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Missouri’s junior senator is requiring federal agencies to provide records about their renewed efforts to censor online comments they label as “disinformation” ahead of the 2024 election.

In a May 22 letter obtained by Truth Voices, Republican Sen. Eric Schmitt demands that FBI Director Christopher Wray and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas release materials related to their agencies’ coordination with Big Tech to suppress information deemed unfavorable to the federal government. The request references remarks from Virginia Democrat Sen. Mark Warner, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who revealed that the FBI and DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) are working with social media companies to, as NextGov/FCW described, “remov[e] disinformation on their sites as the November presidential election nears.”

An FBI representative later confirmed to Truth Voices that the agency has resumed communications with Big Tech platforms. A CISA spokeswoman declined to comment.

“This activity between the government and social media companies runs contrary to the fundamental beliefs of our nation,” Schmitt wrote. “…Resuming this egregious practice demonstrates this Administration’s insatiable desire to stop at nothing to trample the free speech rights of millions of Americans in order to maintain power.”

Schmitt cited multiple examples of the federal government’s censorship-industrial complex, including the notorious Election Integrity Partnership (EIP). According to a November interim report released by House Republicans, the EIP is a “consortium of ‘disinformation’ academics” led by the Stanford Internet Observatory that coordinated with DHS “to monitor and censor Americans’ online speech” leading up to the 2020 election.

Created “at the request” of CISA — which critics call the “nerve center” of the federal government’s censorship operations — the EIP allowed federal officials to “launder [their] censorship activities in hopes of bypassing both the First Amendment and public scrutiny.” The interim report documents that this operation attempted to censor “true information, jokes and satire, and political opinions” and sent targeted posts from prominent conservative figures to Big Tech companies for censorship.

Truth VoicesMollie Hemingway and Sean Davis are among those the government censorship campaign targeted.

Schmitt also highlighted how the federal government “significantly entangled itself to influence and pressure social media companies’ decisions” ahead of the 2022 elections. He noted the FBI’s role in “establish[ing] a ‘command’ process in which it would flag posts and content that it deemed disinformation with social media companies,” often targeting the voices of American citizens and their posts about the 2022 election.

“For this Administration to resume efforts with social media companies to control constitutionally protected speech months before the 2024 election is beyond comprehension,” the senator writes.

Before representing Missouri in the U.S. Senate, Schmitt served as the Show Me State’s attorney general. In that role, he filed a lawsuit along with then-Louisiana AG and now-Gov. Jeff Landry in 2022, alleging that the Biden administration’s collusion with Big Tech to suppress Americans’ online speech violates the First Amendment. U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty agreed, issuing a preliminary injunction on July 4, 2023, barring federal agencies from colluding with Big Tech to censor posts they don’t like.

In his ruling, Doughty wrote, “If the allegations made by Plaintiffs are true, the present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history.”

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Doughty’s injunction in September. While the initial ruling did not include CISA, the court later issued a corrected ruling to also prevent CISA from colluding with Big Tech to squelch free speech online.

The U.S. Supreme Court, however, lifted the Fifth Circuit’s injunction in October, effectively allowing the federal government’s censorship operations to resume while it considers the case’s merits. SCOTUS is expected to issue a final ruling on the merits of Murthy v. Missouri this summer.

In closing his letter, Schmitt demanded Wray and Mayorkas provide information about their agencies’ renewed collusion with Big Tech companies, including the exact date upon which such communications resumed, “all and any safeguards established by the Administration to protect the First Amendment rights of American citizens,” all safeguards to protect the “political speech of potential political opponents of President Biden,” and “a list of topics that the Administration deems misinformation or disinformation,” among other records.

Wray and Mayorkas have until June 3 to fulfill Schmitt’s requests, according to the letter.

Shawn Fleetwood
Shawn Fleetwood
Shawn Fleetwood is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington, where he acquired a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Political Science with a minor in Journalism. His work has been featured in several other news publications, such as RealClearPolitics, RealClearDefense, The Federalist, and Conservative Review.

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