The federal injunction barring Biden administration officials from working with social media platforms and nonprofit organizations could be a death blow to the White House’s censorship activities, according to tech and legal experts.
Judge Terry Doughty ruled July 4 that Biden officials cannot communicate with tech companies and nonprofits for “the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.”
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“Our evidence shows that numerous federal agencies that would include the CDC, the FBI and CISA and the White House were effectively dictating what Americans can and cannot say or see on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and these platforms, on hotly disputed issues that would include the election or the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. It’s just shocking to have seen and to be witnessing the vastness of this censorship enterprise,” Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill told the Daily Caller in an interview. (RELATED: One Day After Free Speech Ruling, State Department Reportedly Cancels Facebook Meeting About 2024 Election)
Murrill is the plaintiffs’ lead counsel on the censorship case, and she is running as a Republican to be Louisiana’s next attorney general.
“All of these government officials took an oath of office to support and enforce the Constitution of the United States. And yet, they were unapologetically violating it by censoring speech they knew to be protected speech. And their attitude is simply that that’s the price you pay from protecting the public from ‘disinformation’ and ‘misinformation,’ but they’ve appointed themselves arbiters of what we get to see and hear,” Murrill added.
Doughty’s 155-page injunction provided substantial evidence of pressure by the government on social media websites to restrict speech from their political opponents, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), a non-partisan free speech organization.
“The district court’s ruling in Missouri v. Biden rightly recognizes the serious threat government pressure tactics pose to free speech online. The record shows the government aggressively leaned on private social media companies to censor constitutionally protected speech,” the organization said in a public statement. A spokesperson for FIRE referred the Caller to its statement.
“The federal government’s overreach under both the Trump and Biden administrations is a reminder of the need for legislation that requires governmental disclosure of its communications with social media companies. Without greater transparency, it is hard to envision the government not continuing to abuse its power behind the scenes.”
Heritage Foundation Tech Analyst Jake Denton also said he believes legislation is needed to prevent the government from continuing to censor speech. (RELATED: Facebook Suppressed Tucker Carlson Video That Did Not Violate Content Policy After White House Demanded It, Judge Says)
“Our lawmakers must build from the momentum of Judge Doughty’s decision and prioritize passing legislation that will both prevent the government from colluding with Big Tech to censor speech and that also establishes barriers to limit these powerful tech companies from censoring users independently. Until our lawmakers pass legislation that protects Americans online, power-hungry social media companies and government officials will continue to exploit these platforms as tools for censorship and control,” Denton told the Caller.
Republican Attorneys General Landry of Louisiana and Bailey of Missouri filed a motion in March for a preliminary injunction in their free speech lawsuit against the Biden administration. Doughty’s injunction is being appealed by the Biden administration and government agencies are reportedly halting their meetings with tech companies in the interim.
“It was certainly expected that the government would appeal and that they would appeal swiftly. I do believe that the judge painstakingly drafted the injunction in a way that permits protected speech. In other words, it permits government speech, the government can speak as it deems appropriate. What the government can’t do is coerce and control social media companies to carry out its own censorship enterprise,” Murrill told the Caller.
Judge Doughty rejected the Biden administration’s request to pause his federal injunction while the appeal is ongoing. He said the plaintiffs would most likely succeed in preventing government agencies from colluding with tech companies to censor speech.
“U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty should be commended for correctly ruling that the Biden administration likely violated the First Amendment by colluding with Big Tech to censor Americans. This is basic, black-letter constitutional law. The federal government cannot outsource censorship to private actors,” Founder and President of the Article III Project Mike Davis told the Caller.
“When this case reaches the Supreme Court, it should be a 9-0 victory for free speech, but there’s real doubt the Democrat-appointed justices will actually follow the Constitution. Fortunately, the Court’s constitutionalist majority, thanks to President Trump, will no doubt deliver a victory for free speech.”
The Missouri v. Biden case resulted in thousands of internal documents between Biden officials and social media companies to become publicly known. Additional correspondence between government agencies and Twitter was released by the “Twitter Files” series showing the internal workings at the company before it was bought by Elon Musk.
Pressure from intelligence agencies influenced Twitter’s decision to censor the New York Post’s reporting about Hunter Biden’s laptop ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Social media platforms were also pressured into suppressing COVID-19 vaccine skeptics, information about the lab leak theory and other political topics.