(The Center Square) — Federal officials across several agencies can no longer contact social media companies to discourage or remove free speech, a federal judge in Louisiana ruled Tuesday.
U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty ruled on Independence Day that the Biden administration likely violated the First Amendment by censoring conservative views on social media during the pandemic. The ruling stems from a case brought by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt in May 2022.
“Today, we won a historic injunction against the Biden Administration, preventing it from censoring the core political speech of ordinary Americans on social media,” Landry said Tuesday. “The evidence in our case is shocking and offensive with senior federal officials deciding that they could dictate what Americans can and cannot say on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms about COVID-19, elections, criticism of the government and more.”
Doughty likened the case to the 1949 dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, noting that all of the topics “suppressed” on social media involved conservative perspectives, including opposition to COVID vaccines, lockdowns, and masking, as well as pushback on the president’s policies, questions about the 2020 election, and the Hunter Biden laptop controversy.
“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,'” Doughty wrote.
“This targeted suppression of conservative ideas is a perfect example of viewpoint discrimination of political speech,” the opinion read. “American citizens have the right to engage in free debate about the significant issues affecting the country.
“Although this case is still relatively young, and at this stage the Court is only examining it in terms of Plaintiffs’ likelihood of success on the merits, the evidence produced thus far depicts an almost dystopian scenario.”
Doughty’s order blocks the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Census Bureau, FBI, U.S. Department of Justice, and members of the president’s executive office from having any discussions with social media companies about “encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.”
The Biden administration argued in court filings the injunction “would significantly hinder the Federal Government’s ability to combat foreign malign influence campaigns, prosecute crimes, protect the national security, and provide accurate information to the public on matters of grave public concerns such as health care and election integrity.”
The administration has not publicly responded to Tuesday’s ruling.
The court order pertains to a request for a preliminary injunction and is expected to be appealed to the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in November blocked three depositions of top Biden administration officials in the case.
The “historic ruling is a big step in the continued fight to prohibit our government from unconstitutional censorship,” Landry said. “We look forward to continuing to litigate the case and will vigorously defend the injunction on appeal.”
By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor