A ruling from a federal judge will prevent the White House administration from contacting leading social media companies. The ruling comes after first amendment violations may have happened under President Joe Biden.
What Happened: U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty ruled the White House may have violated the First Amendment, due to the censorship of views on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Doughty barred multiple federal officials and agencies from contacting social media firms, according to Politico. The agencies and names listed include Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the Justice Department and FBI.
In the ruling, Doughty said that members of the Biden administration acted “Orwellian” in nature by seeking to censor views on social media different than their own.
The ruling comes after several states led by Republicans filed a lawsuit against the White House administration related to pressure to remove posts on social media about the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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 in his ruling.
The judge said topics that were suppressed on social media sites were related to conservative viewpoints, which he called “quite telling.” Items mentioned included opposition to vaccines for COVID-19, the usage of masks during the pandemic, the lab-leak theory, the 2020 election and Hunter Biden’s laptop.
“This targeted suppression of conservative ideas is a perfect example of viewpoint discrimination of political speech. American citizens have the right to engage in free debate about the significant issues affecting the country.”
Doughty said the censorship was similar to a “dystopian scenario.”
In July 2021, Biden was asked about anti-vaccine content on Facebook and other social media sites.
“They’re killing people. The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and they’re killing people,” Biden said.
Related Link: Elon Musk Cries Constitutional Violation Over Facebook’s Alleged Censorship
What’s Next: The ruling by Doughty is expected to take effect immediately but could see an appeal by the current Biden administration.
A White House official said the Justice Department “is reviewing the court’s injunction and will evaluate its options in this case,” as reported by the Washington Post.
“This administration has promoted responsible actions to protect responsible actions to protect public health, safety and security when confronted by challenges like a deadly pandemic and foreign attacks on our elections,” the official, who spoke with anonymity, told the Washington Post.
Doughty’s ruling will apply to social media platforms Twitter, Meta Platforms Inc META-owned Facebook and Alphabet Inc GOOGGOOGL-owned YouTube.
Named parties by the judge will not be able to meet with, flag posts or engage in any communication with social media companies for the “urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner for removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.”
Federal agencies will also be banned from trying to get social media companies to change their guidelines.
Conservative leaders and several legal experts are celebrating the ruling. But, some are not convinced in the new guidelines.
“In many situations, it’s appropriate for the government to urge a private party to take some action as long as they don’t threaten some type of penalty against it,” Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney David Greene told the Washington Post.
Greene said that there wasn’t enough clarity provided in the judge’s ruling and that it was not acknowledged that there can be appropriate interactions between federal government and social media companies.
The Washington Post reported the federal government will still be able to interact with social media companies when criminal activity or national security threats are included. Other items not blocked are suppression of voting or attempts to influence elections.
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