Court Of Appeals Rules Biden Administration Violated First Amendment Over COVID-19 Content On Social Media

 September 9, 2023

On Friday, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Biden Administration did in fact violate Americans First Amendment Rights by trying pressure social media platforms over controversial COVID-19 content. In his response, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry called the ruling a 'major win against censorship'.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry wrote on X, formerly Twitter-

"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”

-Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry

The appeals court, was made up of two George W. Bush nominees and one Trump nominee.  In its 75-page ruling, it 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.

The court said that the Biden administration "ran afoul" of the First Amendment by trying pressure social media platforms over controversial COVID-19 content. In its ruling, however, 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. The administration now has 10 days to seek a Supreme Court review, under the new ruling,

The appeals 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 suit had been filed by the states of Louisiana and Missouri, a conservative website owner, and four people opposed to the administration’s COVID-19 policy,

According to the Washington Post, 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,"

-Washington Post

Further, the Appeals Courtcalled U.S. District Court Judge Terry A. Doughty's injunction "overbroad" because it prohibited the administration from "engaging in legal conduct." It also added, "Nine of the preliminary injunctions ten prohibitions risk doing just that. Moreover, many of the provisions are duplicative of each other and thus unnecessary." Additionally, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency and the State Department were removed from the order.

According to the same outlet, a White House official spokesperson said-

"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,"… "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."

-Washington Post

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

-Benjamin Franklin
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