A federal judge on Tuesday limited the types of contact that Biden administration officials and agencies can have with social media companies about certain protected speech after Republicans argued that the White House pressured companies like Facebook and Twitter to remove content they objected to.
U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday ruling that some federal officials and agencies can’t contact social media companies to discourage or remove First Amendment-protected speech.
The lawsuit filed by Republican attorneys general in Louisiana and Missouri claims the Biden administration pressured Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, among others, to remove content that contained alleged misinformation about election security, the coronavirus and other issues.
The more than a dozen officials named in the injunction include Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, as well as all employees of the FBI and Justice Department.
Among the topics, Doughty said “were suppressed” on social media because Biden administration officials were opposed to Covid-related issues like vaccines, lockdowns, masking and the lab-leak theory.
Other topics also “suppressed” by Biden administration officials were opposition to the validity of the 2020 election, opposition to President Joe Biden’s policies and statements about a story about the president’s son Hunter.
In his 155-page ruling, Doughty compared the U.S. government’s actions to an Orwellian Ministry of Truth and said that each topic that was “suppressed” was a conservative view which Doughty said “is quite telling.”
The Justice Department and White House did not immediately respond to Forbes’ request for comment.
“This targeted suppression of conservative ideas is a perfect example of viewpoint discrimination of political speech,” Doughty wrote in Tuesday’s ruling. “American citizens have the right to engage in free debate about the significant issues affecting the country.” He continued, “the evidence produced thus far depicts an almost dystopian scenario.”
The Justice Department has argued that the conversations between administration officials and social media companies were an attempt to encourage those companies to police their platforms, not order the companies to take down the posts or account entirely. They’ve also noted that the government has worked with social media companies to take action against illegal or harmful material, including in cases of human trafficking. During a May hearing, the Justice Department also argued that an injunction could undermine national security efforts, the New York Times reported. Some of the programs that were critiqued in the Republicans’ lawsuits were established to respond to evidence that Russian actors used social media networks to spread disinformation after the 2016 election, the Times reported.
What To Watch For
A final decision on the suit. Tuesday’s ruling is not a final ruling on the case.
Appeals Court Halts Depositions Of 3 Biden Administration Officials In Social-Media Censorship Suit (Politico)