LOUISIANA – A federal judge in Louisiana ordered key Biden administration officials and agencies not to contact social media platforms to suppress speakers and viewpoints they disagree with, in a major development that could curtail efforts to combat misinformation about health and other issues.
The ruling came in a case filed by Louisiana and Missouri attorneys general, who had claimed the Biden administration was trying to silence views and speakers who questioned its covid-19 policies, and questioned the validity of the 2020 election.
US District Judge Terry A. Doughty in Monroe, Louisiana, said in the Tuesday ruling that large swaths of the government – including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Bureau of Investigation – could not talk to social media companies for “the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech”.
“The present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States' history,” he wrote.
“In their attempts to suppress alleged disinformation, the federal government, and particularly the defendants named here, are alleged to have blatantly ignored the First Amendment's right to free speech.”
The judge said in granting a preliminary injunction that the agencies could not meet with the social media companies about removing specific posts or request reports about their efforts to take down content.
The government can still notify the platforms about posts detailing crimes, national security threats or foreign attempts to influence elections, according to the ruling.
The Justice Department is reviewing the court's injunction and will evaluate its options in this case, according to a white house official.
The Biden 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, the official said in a statement.
Social media platforms must take into account of the effects their platforms are having on the American people, the official said.
Meta Platforms Inc declined to comment. Twitter Inc didn't respond specifically to queries about the judge's decision and Alphabet Inc's Google didn't respond to a request for comment.