(CNSNews.com) -- The government watchdog group Judicial Watch has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to obtain any communications made between the Surgeon General’s communications director and social media companies -- Twitter, Facebook, etc. -- regarding COVID-19 vaccines.
During the COVID pandemic, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called on social media companies to censor free speech about the virus and vaccines, claiming such speech was “misinformation.”
“Biden’s Surgeon General is abusing his office to pressure Big Tech companies to censor Americans," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This lawsuit aims to uncover the details of this government attack on the First Amendment.”
On March 3, 2022, Judicial Watch sent a FOIA request to the HHS asking for, “All records, including, but not limited to, electronic mail, texts, memoranda, and handwritten notes, of, regarding, referring, or relating to any efforts of Alexandria Phillips, Communications Director, Office of the Surgeon General, to contact any employee of Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, YouTube, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Pinterest concerning COVID-19 vaccines.”
On March 10, 2022, the HHS replied, stating that the FOIA request was “In Process.” However, since that communication, the HHS has not released any documents to Judicial Watch. Thus, Judicial Watch filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Jan. 13, 2023.
As noted by Judicial Watch, in 2021 Surgeon General Murthy issued a report entitled “Confronting Health Misinformation” to “slow the spread of health misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”
The document “called for censorship of speech about the vaccines and other COVID controversies,” said Judicial Watch, and it stated, “Prioritize early detection of misinformation ‘super-spreaders’ and repeat offenders. Impose clear consequences for accounts that repeatedly violate platform policies.”
Also, in March 2022, Murthy demanded that Big Tech companies “turn over information about individuals who spread COVID-19 misinformation,” reported Judicial Watch. Specifically, “In a formal notice, Murthy requested major tech platforms submit information about the prevalence and scale of COVID-19 misinformation on their sites, from social networks, search engines, crowdsourced platforms, e-commerce platforms and instant messaging systems.”
The lawsuit calls on the court to order the HHS to comply with the FOIA request, as is required by law, and to cover Judicial Watch’s attorney fees and costs, as the court deems “just and proper.”
As noted by Judicial Watch in a press release, the organization is pursuing several similar lawsuits. These include,
-- "Judicial Watch recently filed suit for records of communications between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and social media sites regarding foreign influence in elections, as well as the Hunter Biden laptop story.
-- "In April 2021, Judicial Watch published documents revealing how California state officials pressured social media companies (Twitter, Facebook, Google (YouTube)) to censor posts about the 2020 election.
-- "In May 2021, Judicial Watch revealed documents showing that Iowa state officials pressured social media companies Twitter and Facebook to censor posts about the 2020 election.
-- "In July 2021 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) records showed that Facebook coordinated closely with the CDC to control the COVID narrative and “misinformation” and that over $3.5 million in free advertising given to the CDC by social media companies."