Jim Jordan’s crusade against ‘government censorship’ will continue despite Supreme Court ruling (2024)

WASHINGTON, D. C. - House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, a Champaign County Republican has spent months conducting hearings and issuing reports on what he calls a “Censorship Industrial Complex:” an alleged network of government agencies and big tech platforms that conspire to censor free speech.

To Jordan, government requests that social media platforms delete misinformation about the safety and efficacy of vaccines or remove election-related falsehoods is a censorship campaign that violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

“Whether you agree with this speech or not, free speech is free speech and the Biden Admin pressured private companies to censor constitutionally protected speech,” Jordan recently posted on social media.

Jordan’s crusade faced a setback late last month when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit that attempted to stop the government from contacting social media platforms to fight the spread of material it deems false and misleading.

The 6-3 decision authored by Justice Amy Coney Barrett said the plaintiffs – the GOP-controlled states of Missouri and Louisiana and individuals who said their social media posts were censored – were not directly harmed by the practice and lacked standing to sue. She also said the plaintiffs failed to link their past social media restrictions to government communications with the platforms.

Barrett rejected the assertion that social-media companies de-platformed or downgraded posts to avoid government retribution, noting that even if they sometimes made content-moderation decisions in response to government requests, “the platforms moderated similar content long before any of the Government defendants engaged in the challenged conduct.

“In fact, the platforms, acting independently, had strengthened their pre-existing content moderation policies before the Government defendants got involved,” wrote Barrett, noting that they regularly consulted with outside experts and often exercised their own judgement on deleting or downgrading posts.

Jim Jordan’s crusade against ‘government censorship’ will continue despite Supreme Court ruling (1)

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Jordan and 44 GOP members of Congress had filed a legal brief in the case, which alleged the administration of President Joe Biden “engaged in a sustained effort to coerce private parties into censoring speech on matters of public concern.” It urged the court to halt “the Administration’s unlawful conduct.

“The Executive Branch’s self-righteous motives notwithstanding, stifling speech is not only unconstitutional, but it leads to distorted, poorer policy outcomes because ideas can no longer be fairly contested on their merits,” their legal brief said.

After the decision, Jordan released a statement that pledged to persist with his probe. It said his committee and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government that he chairs “have uncovered how and the extent to which the Biden Administration engaged in a censorship campaign in violation of the First Amendment.

“While we respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision, our investigation has shown the need for legislative reforms, such as the Censorship Accountability Act, to better protect Americans harmed by the unconstitutional censorship-industrial complex,” his statement said. “Our important work will continue.”

The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, New York’s Jerrold Nadler, released his own statement that described the decision as a “a stinging rebuke to Jim Jordan and his multimillion-dollar conspiracy theory fueled witch hunt,” and said it “pointed out that the basis for House Republicans’ partisan reign of harassment against social media companies was inaccurate and outright false.

“The Court concluded that the social media platforms ‘exercised their own judgement’ with regards to content moderation—which is precisely what we have heard from the dozens of witnesses that Jim Jordan has dragged before this committee,” said Nadler. “I hope that after this humiliating defeat Chairman Jordan and his colleagues will end their failed investigation into the companies, universities, and individuals who have been trying to stop the spread of harmful misinformation and disinformation on social media.”

Nina Jankowicz, who was targeted by Jordan after she briefly led a Department of Homeland Security anti-disinformation agency that Jordan described as “an anti-democratic and un-American attempt to establish a de facto Ministry of Truth within the federal government,” said in an MSNBC column on the court decision that the false allegations “resulted in relentless, vitriolic harassment, doxxing and credible death threats to me and my family.”

She said the fact that she was named as a defendant in the lawsuit that eventually led to the Supreme Court’s ruling along with dozens of other Biden administration officials whom she’d never met “let alone conspired with them to establish a vast censorship regime” showed the case was politically motivated.

“But I also realized it was meant to smear those named as treasonous and freeze work that had been set up to protect our information environment ahead of key events including the 2024 election,” wrote Jankowicz, who went on to head a new nonprofit called the American Sunlight Project to fight efforts to undermine researchers who study disinformation. “Republicans were playing the long game.”

She said the decision Barrett authored will “make it more difficult in the future for charlatans and fraudsters to make such arguments in court without proof,” but said it can’t undo damaging repercussions of “the lie that I wanted to censor my fellow Americans,” such as having to spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees for representation in Jordan’s investigation, and to get a protective order against a cyberstalker.

“While the plaintiffs in Murthy v. Missouri and others across the internet have claimed ‘censorship,’ it is those studying disinformation who have had their speech silenced,” she wrote.

Matt Taibbi, a journalist who published the “Twitter Files,” which used internal communications to reveal the social media network’s deliberations over whether to stifle sharing of particular posts, told Jordan’s committee that people across the political spectrum should care about government requests to censor social media posts, describing it as “a bluntly elitist gatekeeping exercise.”

“If one small demographic over here has broad control over the speech landscape, and a great big one over there does not, it follows that one group will end up with more political power than the other,” Taibbi said in testimony before Jordan’s committee. “It isn’t just one side or the other that will lose if these programs are allowed to continue. It’s pretty much everyone, which is why these programs must be defunded before it’s too late.”

Taibbi criticized the Supreme Court decision in a series of social media posts, saying “Buckle up for Big Brother, folks.

He said government intervention in social media needs to be prohibited, either through legislation or a new court challenge.

“This is just one piece of a massive security-state overreach that will take a lot of political capital to stop,” Taibbi wrote.

Sabrina Eaton writes about the federal government and politics in Washington, D.C., for cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer.

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Jim Jordan’s crusade against ‘government censorship’ will continue despite Supreme Court ruling (2024)

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