Court Blocks Government Censorship of Social Media

Jul 5, 2023

A federal judge in Louisiana ruled yesterday in Missouri v. Biden that the Biden Administration “likely” violated the First Amendment free speech rights of Americans by suppressing and censoring social media posts during the COVID-19 pandemic. The judge issued a sweeping preliminary injunction barring numerous federal agencies and officials, including the entire Department of Justice and FBI, from having any contact with social media companies for the purposes of manipulating protected speech. 

The 155-page landmark ruling is a result from a “censorship-by-proxy” challenge brought by attorneys general in Louisiana and Missouri alleging the federal government either pressured or “significantly encouraged” big technology firms such as Google, Meta, Twitter and others to suspend or censor social media accounts and posts that the government viewed as unfavorable.

Chief U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty for the Western District of Louisiana wrote in the July 4 ruling that the plaintiffs in the case “have produced evidence of a massive effort by Defendants, from the White House to federal agencies, to suppress speech based on its content.”

Judge Doughty stated, “Opposition to COVID-19 vaccines; opposition to COVID-19 masking and lockdowns; opposition to the lab-leak theory of COVID-19; opposition to the validity of the 2020 election; opposition to President Biden’s policies; statements that the Hunter Biden laptop story was true; and opposition to policies of the government officials in power. All were suppressed.” 

Judge Doughty noted the evidence presented in the case “depicts an almost dystopian scenario.” 

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, a period perhaps best characterized by widespread doubt and uncertainty, the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth,’” Judge Doughty wrote. 

“If the allegations made by Plaintiffs are true, the present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history. In their attempts to suppress alleged disinformation, the Federal Government, and particularly the Defendants named here, are alleged to have blatantly ignored the First Amendment’s right to free speech,” wrote Judge Doughty. 

The injunction also bars the U.S. State Department, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Health and Human Services, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and at least 40 cabinet members and federal officials from engaging with social media companies, except when dealing with criminal activity and national security threats. 

According to the injunction, the government used “meetings, emails, phone calls, follow-up meetings, and the power of the government” to influence public narratives. Therefore, Judge Doughty specifically prohibited government entities agencies from “engaging in any communication of any kind with social-media companies urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner for removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech,” said the injunction. 

The injunction takes effect immediately.

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “The Biden administration’s shameful and unprecedented censorship of protected speech violates our most fundamental liberty. This is the worst censorship in history and it harmed people by preventing the dissemination of life-saving information. What the U.S. Constitution directly prevents, government officials cannot do indirectly through private actors. The federal government’s lawlessness must be stopped.”

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