Attorney General of state sued over free speech: Censorship records could reveal “law enforcement matters”

BOSTON, MA - Remember that little conflict called the Revolutionary War? Do you remember from where the first shots of that war were fired? Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. Well, 2023 Massachusetts is a far cry from 1775 Massachusetts. Liberty? Free speech? Not quite.

Last week, America First Legal (AFL) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General seeking information on the existence and number of law enforcement investigations launched in the Bay State regarding so-called “misinformation” or “disinformation.”

The request was made following information divulged to AFL in response to an investigation.

The investigation involved letters written by twelve leftist attorneys general to the heads of Facebook and X (formerly Twitter). Those letters suggested the tech giants censor the viewpoints of American citizens, in particular those viewpoints that run counter to the preferred narrative of leftist Democrats. They specifically mentioned the so-called “Disinformation Dozen,” supported by the United Kingdom’s pro-censorship group, the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).

The ”Disinformation Dozen” theory proposes that only twelve individuals are responsible for upwards of 73 percent of so-called vaccine “disinformation” online.

In response, Meta, Facebook’s parent company, “says that the claim about the 12 key ‘superspreaders of misinformation’ is a narrative…that has not passed the test when confronted by evidence.” Despite that statement, Facebook and Instagram (also owned by Meta) announced three dozen pages, groups and Facebook and Instagram accounts linked to the twelve have been removed.

In an amazing display of ridiculous chutzpah, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, in a September 6, 2023 reply, declined to provide records in response to AFL’s request, claiming disclosing the information could compromise “multistate law enforcement matters.”

The letter called for blatant censorship of matters that fall counter to their preferred narrative and was deemed a “multistate law enforcement matter.”

The letter from the Massachusetts AG’s office read, in part, "...sources of information that are necessarily compiled out of the public view, the disclosure of which would so prejudice the possibility of effective law enforcement that such disclosure would not be in the public interest.

Furthermore, some of the records constitute communications protected by the attorney-client privilege and the common interest doctrine consistent with the holdings in Suffolk Const. Co., Inc. v. Division of Capital Asset Management and Hanover Ins. Co. v. Rap & Jepsen Ins. Services, Inc., as they are communications between state assistant attorneys general regarding a law enforcement matter handled jointly by various state attorneys general, including Massachusetts.”

Any such attack by the state, in this case, attorneys general from several states, has clear implications on the First Amendment rights of individuals. While private companies have the right to censor whatever speech they desire, when government entities, in this case state governments, interfere in that speech, it becomes a constitutional matter.

In response to the letter from Massachusetts, the AFL is seeking additional information from the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General. Specifically, they are requesting “All records sufficient to identify the existence of, and the number of, law enforcement investigations relating to ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation.’”

In a statement, Gene Hamilton, America First Legal Vice President and General Counsel, wrote, "If so-called misinformation and disinformation are legitimate law enforcement matters for the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, then the First Amendment is under much more severe threat than anyone realizes. They are either trying to hide the existence of damaging emails and documents that reveal the extent of their desire to censor American speech, or they have completely lost their minds regarding what the First Amendment protects.”

This is the latest in a continuing attack on conservative speech or speech that contradicts the preferred leftist narrative. These attacks typically involve, but are not limited to, COVID-19 and related issues, such as masking and vaccines; the 2020 election and allegations of voter fraud; the January 6, 2021, US Capitol siege, and; the 2020 George Floyd riots.
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