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Federal Appeals Court Blocks Jen Psaki From Testifying in Big Tech Censorship Case

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki was ordered in September to provide testimony, along with Dr. Anthony Fauci and current White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, in a case regarding alleged censorship of users by big tech platforms.

However, on Friday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans blocked an attempt by GOP attorneys general to depose her in a lawsuit filed against the Biden administration that alleges collusion with big tech to censor and ban certain users.

First filed by then-Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who is now a U.S. senator, as well as Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry in May, the suit claimed that administration officials coerced or colluded with social media platforms to “suppress disfavored speakers, viewpoints, and content” with “dis-information,” “mis-information,” and “mal-information” labels.

U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty of the Western District of Louisiana denied Psaki’s request to dismiss her subpoena to testify, but the three-judge appeals panel ruled that the lower court judge failed to sufficiently consider established legal principles that limit current or former Executive Branch officials’ depositions to essential circumstances, Politico reported, adding:

The attorneys general and several private individuals have argued that Psaki’s statements about encouraging social media firms to take down misinformation about the coronavirus and about election fraud are grounds to subject her to questioning, but the appeals judges sharply disagreed. The 5th Circuit panel also suggested that in the absence of evidence that Psaki herself was interacting with the social media firms or dictating policy, there was little reason to demand her testimony.

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“The plaintiffs argue that a deposition is required in order to, among other things, illuminate the meaning of these statements. Much of this desired illumination, though, is apparent from the record,” Judges Edith Clement, Leslie Southwick and Stephen Higginson wrote in their joint order. “In a similar vein, the plaintiffs say they need to uncover the identities of government officials and social media platforms mentioned in Psaki’s statements. The record is already replete with such information.

“As Press Secretary, Psaki’s role was to inform the media of the administration’s priorities, not to develop or execute policy,” the appeals judges noted further. “Unsurprisingly, then, the record does not demonstrate that Psaki has unique first-hand knowledge that would justify the extraordinary measure of deposing a high-ranking executive official.”

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Clement and Southwick are appointees of President George W. Bush. Higginson was appointed by President Barack Obama, Politico added.

“The central concern of this court is that absent ‘extraordinary circumstances,’ depositions of high government officials should not proceed,” the appeals judges wrote. “That rule is a constant across the decades regardless of who the officials are.”

The lawsuit became more relevant in the wake of the “Twitter Files” dumps, which clearly show the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and other federal officials worked with the previous management team to censor individual users and ban others.

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At one point during her tenure as White House spokeswoman, Psaki appeared to call on Spotify, which hosts “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, and big tech to censor disfavored COVID-19 information.

“So our hope is that all major tech platforms and all major news sources for that matter be responsible and be vigilant to ensure the American people have access to accurate information on something as significant as Covid-19,” she told a reporter in response to a question about Spotify putting “warning labels” on certain Rogan episodes. “That certainly includes Spotify. So this disclaimer, it’s a positive step, but we want every platform to continue doing more to call out a misinformation while also uplifting accurate information.”

The FBI claimed last month that reports its agents colluded with big tech were “conspiracy theories.”

“It is unfortunate that conspiracy theorists and others are feeding the public misinformation with the sole purpose of attempting to discredit the agency,” the FBI noted, according to Fox News Digital.

The response was labeled as “chilling” by Georgetown law professor Jonathan Turley.

“It is not clear what is more chilling: the menacing role played by the FBI in Twitter’s censorship program or its mendacious response to the disclosure of that role. This week saw another FBI ‘nothing-to-see-here’ statement to the Twitter files detailing how it actively sought to suppress the Hunter Biden story before the 2020 election, gave millions to Twitter, and targeted even satire or tiny posts that did not conform with its guidelines,” Turley wrote on his blog.

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