A federal judge has denied the request from Democrat President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ) to stay a ruling that places limits on government communications with social media firms about censoring the American people.
As Slay News reported last week, U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty, a President Donald Trump appointee, blocked the Biden admin from meeting with Big Tech companies about policing online speech.
Judge Doughty ruled that the Biden admin had violated the First Amendment rights of the American people by demanding that social media companies silence people online.
The judge accused Biden officials of subverting the U.S. Constitution by trying to use third parties as a proxy to strip Americans of their free speech rights.
This week, Doughty rejected the White House’s argument that such an order could hinder law enforcement activity online.
However, the judge’s original order didn’t prevent regular law enforcement efforts and only blocked the Biden admin’s efforts to censor people online.
Judge Doughty wrote that his order last week had created exceptions for communications for cyberattacks, election interference, and national security threats.
The DOJ and Biden administration, he wrote, didn’t provide any specific examples that “would provide grave harm to the American people or our democratic processes.”
“Although this Preliminary Injunction involves numerous agencies, it is not as broad as it appears,” Mr. Doughty wrote.
“It only prohibits something the Defendants have no legal right to do—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 posted on social-media platforms.”
The judge further wrote that Republican attorneys general who brought the suit are most likely going to prevail in proving that federal agencies and officials “significantly encouraged,” “coerced,” or “jointly participated” in allegedly suppressing social media posts.
The posts that were targetted by the Biden admin included information critical of Covid vaccines and posts that questioned the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
In response, lawyers for the Biden administration’s DOJ filed an emergency stay of the injunction at the 5th U.S. District Court of Appeals.
They argued that Mr. Doughty’s ruling was too vague and broad.
“The district court identified no evidence suggesting that a threat accompanied any request for the removal of content,” the administration wrote on Monday.
“Indeed, the order denying the stay—presumably highlighting the ostensibly strongest evidence—referred to ‘a series of public media statements.’
It came as the attorneys general for Missouri and Louisiana have submitted a petition to oppose the Biden administration’s motion to stay an injunction against its efforts allowing it to contact social media firms about a range of online content, including its efforts to flag so-called “misinformation.”
Over the weekend, the two states filed a memorandum of opposition to the administration’s motion, coming days after a federal judge partially granted an injunction that blocks various Biden administration officials and government agencies such as the Justice Department and the FBI from working with big tech firms to censor posts on social media.
It came in response to a lawsuit filed by the attorneys general, who accused the White House and various federal agencies of putting pressure on social media firms to take down posts or suspend accounts.
“Evidence in this case overwhelmingly shows that the way the Government supposedly ‘prevent[s] grave harm to the American people and our democratic processes’ is to pressure and induce social-media platforms to censor disfavored viewpoints on COVID-19, elections, and other core political speech,” they wrote on Sunday.
“In the end, their position is fundamentally defiant toward the Court’s judgment.
“It demonstrates that the Government will continue violating First Amendment rights by censoring core political speech on social media as soon as it can get away with it.
“The motion to stay should be denied.”