A federal judge issued an injunction Tuesday that blocks members of the Biden Administration and several federal agencies from working with social media companies to exert any form of control over users’ “protected free speech.”
Louisiana Judge Terry A. Doughty’s injunction bars the named agencies, including intelligence agencies, from meeting with social media companies concerning the removal of content or urging companies to alter their guidelines for doing so.
The injunction also bars federal officials from “specifically flagging content or posts” for “removal, deletion[, or] suppression.” In addition to this, they are blocked from “requesting content reports” from social media companies “detailing actions taken to remove, delete, suppress, or reduce content containing protected free speech.”
Furthermore, they are prohibited from collaborating with “the Election Integrity Partnership, the Virality Project, the Stanford Internet Observatory, or any like project or group” for any of these same purpose.
The named individuals are also barred from “notifying social-media companies to Be on The Lookout (“BOLO”) for postings containing protected free speech.”
In addition to this, the injunction lists several activities from which the relevant officials are not prohibited, including notifying social media companies of criminal activity, national security threats, threats to public safety, and posts intended to “mislead voters about voting requirements and procedures.”
The injunction also allows them to communicate with social media companies about “deleting, removing, suppressing, or reducing posts on social-media platforms that are not protected free speech by the Free Speech Clause in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
These restrictions are set to remain in place until “the final resolution of this case.”
Judge Doughty also issued a 155-page memorandum ruling explaining his reasoning for issuing the injunction.
“In their attempts to suppress alleged disinformation, the Federal Government, and particularly the Defendants named here, are alleged to have blatantly ignored the First Amendment’s right to free speech,” Judge Doughty wrote. “Although the censorship alleged in this case almost exclusively targeted conservative speech, the issues raised herein go beyond party lines.”
“The question does not concern whether speech is conservative, moderate, liberal, progressive, or somewhere in between. What matters is that Americans, despite their views, will not be censored or suppressed by the Government,” Judge Doughty argued.
The lawsuit that spurred this memorandum and injunction alleged that those named in the filing worked to suppress speech on social media related to: “the Hunter Biden laptop story prior to the 2020 Presidential election,” “the lab-leak theory of COVID-19’s origin,” “the efficiency of masks and COVID-19 lockdowns,” “the efficiency of COVID-19 vaccines,” “election integrity in the 2020 presidential election,” “the security of voting by mail,” “parody content” about those named in the suit, “the economy,” and “negative posts about President Biden.”
Judge Doughty stated in the memorandum that the original lawsuit alleged that beginning in 2018, members of federal agencies and later the Biden administration urged social media platforms to “censor disfavored speech and speakers,” as well as “threaten[ing] adverse consequences” to those who refused “to increase censorship.”
Although this lawsuit in particular is targeted at federal officials, Sen. Angus King (I-ME) has also found himself involved with similar allegations.
It was revealed earlier this year as part of independent journalist Matt Taibbi’s “Twitter Files” reporting that Sen. King’s associates had compiled a spreadsheet of Twitter and Facebook users who had shared content against King’s interests. The spreadsheet indicates that these complaints were sent to the social media companies and, in several cases, resulted in permanent account suspensions.
King responded to these allegations during an interview with News Center Maine shortly after the initial story broke.
“If somebody’s gonna come after me with a misleading misinformation, I’m gonna respond,” King said.
Although the list did contain accounts run by automated “bots” and known conspiracy theorists, it also targeted accounts operated by the Maine Republican Party and conservative activists.
No legal action has since been taken against King over these revelations.
It remains to be seen how the lawsuit filed against members of the Biden administration and other Federal agencies will ultimately resolve. The injunction issued this past week will remain in effect until the case is resolved, unless the court opts to take further action in the meantime.