A "shadowy organization" in the Department of Homeland Security leads the effort to undermine free speech by coercing social media companies, Attorney General Andrew Bailey said Friday in a speech to the Missouri chapter of the Federalist Society.
In his first public speech to a nonpartisan audience since taking office Jan. 3, Bailey talked about what he calls "one of the most important First Amendment suits in a generation."
Former Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed the civil lawsuit in May alongside Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, alleging the federal government's collusion with social media companies.
Schmitt and Bailey have published some of the evidence of the case, largely emails from federal officials asking social-media employees to diminish messages that health officials deem misinformation during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Each day we uncover additional evidence that leads back to a shadowy organization within the Department of Homeland Security," Bailey said.
The Federalist Society, a conservative legal group focused on the original interpretation and application of the U.S. Constitution, invited Bailey to give a keynote address at its annual conference, held in the chamber of the Missouri House of Representatives.
Bailey replaced Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Caleb Stegall who was unable to attend.
The organization welcomed Bailey with standing applause to begin his speech, which summarized the ongoing litigation against the Biden Administration.
"I have in my possession tens of thousands of documents and pages of deposition testimony that show we no longer live in the nation our parents inherited," Bailey said. "We now have a historical epic characterized by a dystopian relationship between the federal government and big tech, social media giants."
His office has deposed several top-ranking officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, who recently retired as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The attorney general's office released the 450-page deposition of Fauci, and far-right influencers celebrated the AG's litigation.
"Our work has only just begun and will not stop until we have routed out this vast censorship enterprise and all those who seek to steal our First Amendment liberties," Bailey said.
He not only took issue with the federal government's alleged role, but he also placed blame on social media companies -- who he often referred to as "big tech" -- in his speech.
"The collusion on the part of big tech social media is equally frightening, where woke corporations are designing algorithms and policies intended to stifle free, fair and open debate," he said.
Jesus Osete, former general counsel for Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, told the Independent after Bailey's speech that social media companies -- while they are private entities -- operate like a "town square."
"It basically touches everybody's lives in our communications these days. So, it has become a modern town hall," he said. "That's why it's so important and why there's so many repercussions for how we're going to regulate it, if at all."
Bailey spoke to the Federalist Society in a friendly manner, often using "we" and "us" pronouns.
"We know what they really want, and that is to label us a threat: any voice that doesn't believe in climate change, any voice that believes that parents have a right to be involved in their children's education and any voice that believes that a man cannot get pregnant," he said.
The Missouri Independent, www. missouriindependent.com, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization covering state government and its impact on Missourians.