The Biden administration has been accused of censorship and faced official rebuke for its efforts to regulate social media content, as a federal judge ruled Tuesday that the administration likely violated the First Amendment in doing so as “Orwellian.”
U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, issued a sweeping preliminary injunction against numerous federal officials and agencies, including Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, and all employees of the Justice Department and FBI.
The decision and order, which was released on the Fourth of July, comes as the latest development in a lawsuit led by Republican-led states alleging that the administration had pressured social media companies to remove posts containing purported misinformation about the coronavirus, election security, and other issues.
In a 155-page opinion, Doughty wrote that during the pandemic, “the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth.’”
“Each topic ‘suppressed’ was a conservative view, which ‘is quite telling,’” Doughty declared. “This targeted suppression of conservative ideas is a perfect example of viewpoint discrimination of political speech.”
The judge’s opinion also cited a wide range of topics, including opposition to Covid vaccines, masking, and the lab-leak theory; opposition to the validity of the 2020 election; opposition to President Joe Biden’s and other officials’ policies; and statements claiming that the story surrounding a laptop belonging to Biden’s son Hunter Biden was true.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry applauded the ruling, calling it a “historic injunction” against the Biden administration that prevents it “from censoring the core political speech of ordinary Americans on social media.”
“The evidence in our case is shocking and offensive,” Landry added.
The Justice Department has argued that federal officials engaging with social media companies were simply encouraging them to police their platforms and that the officials’ speech in doing so was protected by the First Amendment. However, the judge’s order takes effect immediately unless appealed.
In July 2021, Biden had wrestled with the issue of content on social media, criticizing it for “killing people,” as he spoke of the presence of anti-vaccine content on Facebook and other sites.
The situation has been deemed “Orwellian” and “dystopian” by Doughty as he addressed what he felt was the suppression of conservative views. And now, this order seems to put a stop to that practice as the Biden administration is prohibited from having any contact with social media companies for the purpose of discouraging or removing First Amendment-protected speech.