Biden administration violated First Amendment over COVID-19 content on social media, court of appeals rules
The Biden administration “ran afoul” of the First Amendment by trying pressure social media platforms over controversial COVID-19 content, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled Friday.
In its 75-page ruling, the appeals court, made up of two George W. Bush nominees and one Trump nominee, said that President Biden, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FBI and the surgeon general cannot “coerce” social media platforms to remove content it deems problematic.
However, in its ruling, the court threw out language from a Louisiana judge in July who ruled that the government could not contact social media platforms to urge them to take down content.
Under the new ruling, the administration has 10 days to seek a Supreme Court review.
The ruling stems from a Louisiana lawsuit that accuses the Biden administration of threatening platforms like X, formerly Twitter, and Facebook, with antitrust lawsuits or changes to federal law that protect their liability and of silencing conservative voices.
The lawsuit was filed by the states of Missouri and Louisiana, a conservative website owner, and four people opposed to the administration’s COVID-19 policy.
The ruling said the administration “coerced the platforms to make their moderation decisions by way of intimidating messages and threats of adverse consequences” and “significantly encouraged the platforms’ decisions by commandeering their decision-making processes, both in violation of the First Amendment,” according to the Washington Post.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry called the ruling a “major win against censorship.”
“Fifth Circuit just unanimously affirmed Judge Doughty’s injunction against White House, CDC, FBI and others — giving Americans and #FreedomOfSpeech a major win against censorship, totalitarianism, and Biden. #FirstAmendment,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
The 5th circuit also called U.S. District Court Judge Terry A. Doughty’s injunction “overbroad” because it prohibited the administration from “engaging in legal conduct.” Doughty was nominated by Trump.
It added, “Nine of the preliminary injunction’s ten prohibitions risk doing just that. Moreover, many of the provisions are duplicative of each other and thus unnecessary.”
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency and the State Department were removed from the order.
“This Administration has promoted responsible actions to protect public health, safety, and security when confronted by challenges like a deadly pandemic and foreign attacks on our elections,” a White House official spokesperson told the Washington Post. “Our consistent view remains that social media platforms have a critical responsibility to take account of the effects their platforms are having on the American people, but make independent choices about the information they present.”
Fox News Digital has reached out to the White House for comment.