Federal Judge Says Biden Admin Can't Tell Social Media Platforms To Censor Content

Emma Campbell | July 5, 2023
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A federal judge Tuesday issued an injunction that prevents federal agencies from contacting social media companies about suppressing content on their platforms.

Judge Terry A. Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, a Trump administration appointee, delivered the temporary order in response to ongoing litigation brought by the state of Missouri. The suit alleges that since 2018, federal officials have collaborated with social media platforms “in an effort to induce them to censor disfavored speech and speakers.” The injunction blocks Biden administration officials and numerous federal agencies from contacting social media companies “for the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression or reduction of content containing protected free speech.”

Originally filed by former Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry in 2022, the suit alleges “a massive effort by defendants, from the White House to federal agencies, to suppress speech based on its content,” especially in the area of political speech. Additionally, the alleged suppressed speech was disproportionately conservative in nature.

“The flagged content was almost entirely from political figures, political organizations, alleged partisan media outlets, and social-media all-stars associated with right=wing or conservative political views, demonstrating likely ‘viewpoint discrimination,’” Doughty wrote in his order. 

“Since only conservative viewpoints were allegedly suppressed, this leads naturally to the conclusion that Defendants intended to suppress only political views they did not believe in.”

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The preliminary injunction applies to dozens of Biden administration officials and numerous federal agencies, including Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Federal agencies will still be allowed to notify social media companies of crimes, threats to national security, and foreign attempts at influencing elections under the injunction.

“Although this case is still relatively young…the evidence produced thus far depicts an almost dystopian scenario. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a period perhaps best characterized by widespread doubt and uncertainty, the United State Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth,’” Doughty said in the injunction.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who took over the case after Schmitt became a U.S. Senator, praised the injunction on social media.

“The Court has granted our motion to BLOCK top officials in the federal government from violating the First Amendment rights of millions of Americans,” Bailey said on Twitter. “What a way to celebrate Independence Day.”

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