'Arguably... The Most Massive Attack Against Free Speech In The United States' History'
Federal judge issues preliminary injunction restricting Biden administration from communicating with social media platforms to censor free speech
Note: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on 9/8/23 upheld the lower court ruling discussed below, prohibiting numerous federal government officials from contacting social media companies.
The dark days of government censorship of politics and medical information may be nearing an end.
U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty of Louisiana on Tuesday, July 4, issued a firecracker of a decision in defense of free speech, along with a preliminary injunction to prevent the U.S. government from coercing social media platforms to censor speech on a broad range of topics, including politics, COVID-19, climate change, gender discussions, abortion and economic policy.
The lawsuit, Missouri v. Burden, was brought by the attorney generals of Missouri and Louisiana and three epidemiologists who authored the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) that opposed lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The injunction specifically applies to the White House, the Office of U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the U.S. State Department.
In his 155-page decision, Judge Doughty wrote the evidence in the case thus far indicates “an almost dystopian scenario… the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth.’”
Judge Doughty said “the issues raised herein go beyond party lines” and “arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in the United States’ history.”
Judge Doughty issued the preliminary injunction after finding the plaintiffs “are likely to succeed on the merits of their First Amendment claim.”
“The Court, after examining the facts, has determined that some of the Defendants either exercised coercive power or provided significant encouragement, which resulted in the possible suppression of Plaintiffs’ speech,” ruled Judge Doughty.
He said the government imposed such a high degree of control on private social media platforms that their decisions to censor “must be deemed to be that of the state.” He said the defendants’ “unrelenting pressure” caused social media companies to take down, reduce and suppress millions of protected free speech postings by American citizens.
“What is really telling is that virtually all of the free speech suppressed was ‘conservative’ free speech… The targeting of conservative speech indicates that Defendants may have engaged in ‘viewpoint discrimination’ to which strict scrutiny applies,” writes Judge Doughty.
Strict scrutiny refers to the most stringent form of U.S. Supreme Court review.
Judge Doughty said the plaintiffs likely “jointly participated’ with the social media companies to such an extent that they became “pervasively entwined” in the private companies’ workings “to such an extent as to blur the line between public and private action.”
He rejected the defendants claim that the government’s interest in being able to warn social media companies of foreign actors’ misinformation outweighs Americans interests in the right of free speech.
“The right of free speech is a fundamental constitutional right that is vital to the freedom of our nation, and Plaintiffs have produced evidence of a massive effort by Defendants, from the White House to federal agencies, to suppress speech based on its content…. Plaintiffs’ free speech rights thus far outweighs the rights of Defendants,” wrote Judge Doughty.
Judge Doughty outlined length specific instances of censorship by the defendants…