U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty, chief judge of the District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, issued the prohibition on July 4. According to the sweeping preliminary injunction, federal officials and agencies are not allowed to have contact with social media firms for censorship purposes.
Officials named in the order include Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, Health Secretary Xavier Becerra and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. The injunction also applied to all employees of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation under it.
According to POLITICO, the July 4 ruling and order from Doughty – a Trump appointee – are the latest developments in a long-running lawsuit against the Biden administration. The 2022 lawsuit, filed by former Missouri Attorney General (AG) Eric Schmitt and Louisiana AG Jeff Landry, accused the federal government of pressuring social media platforms to remove posts containing purported misinformation about COVID-19, election security and other issues.
In his 155-page decision, the magistrate ruled that the Biden administration likely violated the First Amendment through its "Orwellian" censorship of unfavorable views on social media over the course of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
"During the COVID-19 pandemic – a period, perhaps best characterized by widespread doubt and uncertainty – the U.S. government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian 'Ministry of Truth,'" Doughty wrote.
His decision cited a wide range of topics that were "suppressed" at the behest of the Biden administration, noting the conservative nature of those banned topics was "quite telling." These include opposition to COVID-19 vaccines, masking, lockdowns and the lab leak theory; claims that the 2020 election was mired with vote fraud; and the so-called "laptop from hell" owned by presidential son Hunter Biden.
Moreover, Doughty also cited past efforts by the Biden administration to censor Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (RFK Jr.) on social media. The health freedom activist, who announced his plans to run for president in the 2024 elections in April, has long opposed COVID-19 vaccines.
"The evidence produced thus far depicts an almost dystopian scenario," the magistrate noted. "This targeted suppression of conservative ideas is a perfect example of viewpoint discrimination of political speech. American citizens have the right to engage in free debate about the significant issues affecting the country."
The Biden administration can still appeal the ruling to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
A spokesperson for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Meanwhile, the DOJ declined to comment on the ruling. The Justice Department has previously argued that federal officials getting in touch with social media companies only served as encouragement for the latter to police their platforms, something protected by the First Amendment.
Doughty has been overseeing the 2022 lawsuit filed by Schmitt and Landry. However, the appeals court blocked efforts by Doughty to force former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki to testify. (Related: Biden administration sued for colluding with Big Tech to censor political speech.)
Landry celebrated the ruling in a statement released on the afternoon of July 4, calling it a "historic injunction" against the Biden administration. According to Landry, the injunction prevents the federal government "from censoring the core political speech of ordinary Americans on social media." He added: "The evidence in our case is shocking and offensive."
Visit Censorship.news for more stories about how the Biden administration is pressuring social media companies to remove content opposing its narrative.
Watch this Next News Network report about Doughty's ruling and injunction against the Biden administration.
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