Appeals Court Pauses Limit on Contact Between Biden Administration and Social Media Outlets

July 17, 2023

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday paused a federal judge’s temporary injunction restricting some federal agencies from communicating with social media outlets.

The Biden Administration had filed the appeal on July 5, one day after Judge Terry A. Doughty of the U.S. District Court in Louisiana issued the injunction against such federal agencies as 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.”

Under Doughty’s now-paused ruling, the federal agencies would still be 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 had been 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.”

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 misinformation surrounding Covid-19 and election conspiracies.

The 5th Circuit’s brief order put Doughty’s injunction on hold “until further orders of the court.” It called for arguments to be scheduled on an expedited basis.

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