Chief U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty of the Western District of Louisiana issued a sweeping injunction Tuesday that likened the Biden administration to an Orwellian “Ministry of Truth” when he barred multiple federal departments and federal officials from contacting social media companies asking them to remove content the judge said is protected by the First Amendment. In essence, the order admonishes practices of the president’s team in its effort to censor opposing views.
The order includes a lengthy three-page list of names and agencies that are prohibited from “meeting with 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.”
Moreover, the federal officials were also barred from “specifically flagging content or posts on social media platforms and/or forwarding such to social-media companies urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner for removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech,” the judge noted.
Doughty was nominated to the bench by then-President Donald Trump in 2017. His order also blocks those parties from “collaborating, coordinating, partnering, switchboarding, and/or jointly working with the Election Integrity Partnership, the Virality Project, the Stanford Internet Observatory, or any like project or group for the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content posted with social-media companies containing protected free speech.”
The judge’s ruling didn’t pull any punches as he slammed the Biden administration for censorship.
“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.
The underlying lawsuit was filed by Republican attorneys general in Louisiana and Missouri. They alleged that through both public and private messages and meetings, White House officials “coerced” social media platforms to “suppress” protected free speech. The complaint alleges that on some occasions, executive branch officials threatened social media companies with antitrust legal actions or even eliminating Section 230, the law that protects platforms from liability for users’ posts, Law&Crime reported.
Doughty gave the plaintiffs — including some scientists — a temporary injunction through his order. He said they were “likely to succeed on the merits in establishing that the Government has used its power to silence the opposition.”
“Opposition to COVID-19 vaccines; opposition to COVID-19 masking and lockdowns; opposition to the lab-leak theory of COVID-19; opposition to the validity of the 2020 election; opposition to President Biden’s policies; statements that the Hunter Biden laptop story was true; and opposition to policies of the government officials in power. All were suppressed,” the judge noted in his written order.
— Michael Shellenberger (@shellenberger) July 4, 2023
“It is quite telling that each example or category of suppressed speech was conservative in nature. This targeted suppression of conservative ideas is a perfect example of viewpoint discrimination of political speech,” Doughty wrote.
The District Court judge discerned that the “explosion of social media platforms has resulted in unique free speech issues — this is especially true in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. If the allegations made by Plaintiffs are true, the present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States history.”
“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,” he wrote.
“Although the censorship alleged in this case almost exclusively targeted conservative speech, the issues raised herein go beyond party lines,” the judge said.