Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with two media groups, is seeking to halt a taxpayer-funded program allegedly created to censor the media.
Paxton filed a memorandum on Wednesday supporting an injunction against the program that the plaintiffs say aims to silence media corporations that promote viewpoints unpopular with the current federal administration.
The New Civil Liberties Alliances, which is serving as co-counsel in the lawsuit, has described the program as “one of the most egregious violations of the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of press and freedom of speech by the federal government in American history,” comparing it to something out of a George Orwell novel.
The State of Texas, in cooperation with media companies The Federalist and The Daily Wire, filed the lawsuit in December, alleging the use of a covert program operated through the U.S. State Department that funds the development and promotion of censorship technologies intended to make certain news outlets unprofitable.
“I am proud to lead the fight to save American’s precious constitutional rights from Joe Biden’s tyrannical federal government,” Paxton said in a statement. “The State Department’s mission to obliterate the First Amendment is completely un-American. This agency will not get away with their illegal campaign to silence citizens and publications they disagree with.”
The NCLA states in the complaint for injunctive relief that the State Department, through the Global Engagement Center, uses the technologies NewsGuard and the Global Disinformation Index to target certain media the program determines are “risky” or “unreliable.” This causes advertisers to avoid these outlets, which are then redirected to platforms favorable to the administration’s views.
“Today is the beginning of the end of the federal government’s ongoing efforts to destroy our free speech rights,” CEO and co-founder of The Federalist, Sean Davis, said in a statement. “Every last person involved in the illegal conspiracy to use the power of government to trample our First Amendment rights better buckle up, because we are not going to stop until the entire censorship-industrial complex is on the ash heap of history.”
The program in question was initially conceived to combat overseas “disinformation” campaigns.
“The State Department supposedly developed these speech-suppressing technologies to combat foreign propaganda overseas. That the federal government now sees fit to wield these weapons — or put them in others’ hands to wield — against American citizens and stateside media outlets is as frightening as it is forbidden,” said Mark Chenoweth, general council and NCLA president.
The memorandum, sent by Paxton to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, seeks an injunction by the court against the Biden administration to stop researching, funding, and testing technologies that target free speech and media.