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Biden Administration Fights Limitations on Social Media Contacts

The Biden administration faces a federal appeals court over restrictions imposed by a Louisiana judge on its ability to communicate with social media firms, a case raising critical questions on free speech and government influence.

Joe Biden
Joe Biden

Biden Administration's Appeal for Freedom with Social Media Firms

A lawyer representing the Biden administration urged the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday to remove an order by a Louisiana judge. This order restricts the administration's interactions with social media companies, limiting the ability to flag information deemed harmful or misleading.

Claims of Censorship and the Government's Defense

Daniel Tenny, a Department of Justice lawyer, defended the administration against Louisiana and Missouri's claims that conservative speech had been suppressed on social media. He argued that the states were not harmed by the government's actions and that the imposed limits could hinder essential communication in situations like natural disasters.

The Original Ruling: Allegations of Illegal Censorship

On July 4, U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty ruled in favor of the state's Republican attorneys general, asserting that government officials illegally urged social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to suppress certain viewpoints. This suppression allegedly targeted posts opposing vaccines, mask requirements, COVID-19 lockdowns, and the 2020 election's validity.

Constitutional Rights and the Judge's Prohibition

Doughty described the government's efforts as "Orwellian," claiming the censorship campaign violated the First Amendment's free speech rights. He forbade government agencies from seeking the removal or suppression of content containing protected free speech, though there were narrow exceptions to this rule.

The Ongoing Appeal and Partisan Divides

The Biden administration quickly appealed the decision, and the 5th Circuit temporarily put it on hold. All three judges on the panel were appointed by Republican presidents. The case has sparked considerable interest, with friend-of-the-court briefs mostly divided along partisan lines; Republican state attorneys general and Congress members support the states, while Democratic-led states back the administration.