Federal judge delivers major blow to federal agencies’ ties to social media

by WorldTribune Staff, July 5, 2023

Calling Team Biden’s actions in working with social media companies to censor news a “dystopian scenario,” a federal judge on Tuesday issued a broad preliminary injunction ordering the Biden administration to limit its contact with social media platforms.

U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty of Louisiana, a Trump appointee, determined that Team Biden likely violated the First Amendment by working with social media platforms to censor disfavored political viewpoints online.

In a 155-page ruling, Judge Doughty barred White House officials and multiple federal agencies from contacting social media companies with the purpose of suppressing political views and other speech normally protected from government censorship.

“If the allegations made by Plaintiffs are true, the present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history,” Judge Dought’s injunction said. “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.”

“[T]he evidence produced thus far depicts an almost dystopian scenario,” wrote Doughty. “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.’ ”

Specifically, the Biden agencies and their staff members are prohibited under the injunction from meeting or contacting by phone, email, or text message or “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.”

The agencies are also barred from flagging content on posts on social media platforms and forwarding them to the companies with requests for action such as removing or otherwise suppressing their reach.

Encouraging or otherwise egging on social media companies to change their guidelines for the removal, suppression, or reduction of content that contains protected free speech by the government also isn’t allowed, the injunction said.

“This could be arguably one of the most important First Amendment cases in modern history,” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, one of the plaintiffs, told The Epoch Times’s “American Thought Leaders” in an interview following the ruling.

“If you look at the opinion that the judge lays out, he takes from our argument that this is basically one of the most massive undertakings of the federal government to limit American speech in the history of our country. The things that we uncovered, in this case, should be both shocking, appalling, and concerning for all Americans.”

The judge’s injunction came in a lawsuit led by the Republican attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana who alleged that the Biden administration fostered a sprawling “federal censorship enterprise.” The federal government, the lawsuit claimed, pressured social media platforms to scrub away disfavored views about Covid-19 health policies, the origins of the pandemic, the Hunter Biden laptop story, election security and other topics.

Judge Doughty named former White House press secretary and current MSNBC host Jen Psaki several times in the ruling. The injunction said that Psaki “publicly began pushing Facebook and other social media platforms to censor Covid-19 misinformation” on May 5, 2021.

“At a White House Press Conference, Psaki publicly reminded Facebook and other social media platforms of the threat of ‘legal consequences’ if they do not censor misinformation more aggressively,” it continued.

During a July 2021 press conference, Psaki, alongside Surgeon General Hallegere Murthy, told reporters that the White House was “flagging problematic posts” for Facebook, according to the injunction.

“We are in regular touch with these social-media platforms, and those engagements typically happen through members of our senior staff, but also members of our COVID-19 team,” she said, according to the injunction. “We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.”

The injunction also said that it was “quite telling that each example or category of suppressed speech was conservative in nature.”

Doughty rejected a motion by attorneys for Psaki to block a court-ordered deposition in November 2022, and said there is public interest in “determining whether First Amendment free speech rights have been suppressed.”

Doughty also singled out current White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and several health officials in the administration while issuing a blanket ban on FBI and DOJ employees contacting social media companies.

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