(Ken Silva, Headline USA) In a win for free-speech rights, an appeals court has upheld the landmark July 4 district court decision banning the U.S. government from pressuring social media companies to censor First Amendment-protected content.
“This is a significant victory for the American people,” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said in a statement, celebrating Friday’s ruling.
“And it confirms what we have said from the very beginning: the federal government is not permitted to engage in viewpoint suppression, no matter your political ideology.”
The decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans stems from a lawsuit the attorneys general from Missouri and Louisiana filed against the Biden administration in May 2022. They sued Biden, former press secretary Jen Psaki, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Mayorkas, the new director of DHS’ “Disinformation Governance Board” Nina Jankowicz, and others.
The attorneys general argued that Biden and his officials colluded with big tech companies, including Meta, Twitter, and Youtube, to censor truthful information about a range of issues— including the coronavirus, election integrity and Hunter Biden’s laptop—under the guise of combating “misinformation.”
In a landmark ruling released July 4, a lower court agreed with the plaintiffs.
“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,’” U.S. Judge Terry A. Doughty said in his scathing judgment, which granted a injunction on the Biden administration from pressuing social media companies to censor.
Democrats and left-leaning media criticized the ruling at the time, claiming that the judge had a conservative bias. But the Fifth Circuit largely upheld the lower court injunction on Friday.
“Ultimately, we find the district court did not err in determining that several officials—namely the White House, the Surgeon General, the CDC, and the FBI—likely coerced or significantly encouraged social-media platforms to moderate content, rendering those decisions state actions,” the appeals court said.
“In doing so, the officials likely violated the First Amendment.”
In its decision, the appeals court cited numerous examples of the Biden administration acting unconstitutionally.
“For example, one White House official demanded more details and data on Facebook’s internal policies at least twelve times, including to ask what was being done to curtail ‘dubious’ or ‘sensational’ content, what ‘interventions’ were being taken, what ‘measurable impact’ the platforms’ moderation policies had, ‘how much content [was] being demoted,’ and what ‘misinformation’ was not being downgraded,” the justices said.
The Biden administration has ten days to appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court.
Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.