Biden Administration Appeals Judge’s Limits on Contact with Social Media Companies

July 6, 2023

The Biden Administration on Wednesday filed an appeal to a federal judge’s temporary injunction restricting some federal agencies from communicating with social media outlets. 

Judge Terry A. Doughty of the U.S. District Court in Louisiana issued the injunction Tuesday against dozens of federal agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the FBI, barring them 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.”

The federal agencies are still allowed to notify social media companies about crimes, national security threats or foreign attempts to influence elections.

The broad injunction rose out of a complaint filed by two Republican state Attorneys General, in Louisiana and Missouri. It’s being seen as a victory for Republicans who have accused the big social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube of disproportionately removing right-leaning content, sometimes in collusion with government.

“If the allegations made by plaintiffs are true, the present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history,” said Judge Doughty, a Trump appointee. “The plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits in establishing that the government has used its power to silence the opposition.”

The Biden Administration’s notice of appeal signals that it plans to ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans to review Doughty’s ruling.

Several legal scholars and attorneys have noted that there was no precedent to support the sweeping injunction, which could have First Amendment implications.

Even conservative attorney Jonathan Turley, who hailed Tuesday’s ruling as a “very important moment” conceded that the injunction “will have a difficult time on appeal, because it is such a rare and novel order.”

In its appeal, the Biden Administration argued that there was no threat of harm because the lawsuit challenged communications that ended more than a year ago—such as restricting misinformation surrounding Covid-19 and election conspiracies.

The White House has declined to comment on the appeal, and several of the major social media companies, despite reporters’ requests, have not yet commented on the initial ruling. 

Doughty has previously ruled against the Biden Administration’s enforcing laws that mandated Covid vaccines.

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