A federal judge in the United States has temporarily put a halt on discussions between White House representatives and tech giants concerning the alleged censorship on social media, stating that such actions could potentially violate First Amendment rights.
The temporary restraining order, issued on Tuesday by Judge Terry A. Doughty of Louisiana, came as a response to recent litigation from the attorneys general of Louisiana and Missouri. They argue that the White House essentially compelled, or “strongly persuaded”, tech companies to infringe on free speech during the period of the pandemic.
Doughty’s order prohibits numerous federal officials and departments, including President Biden’s cabinet members and White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre, from approaching social media platforms with the intent to limit expression.
The companies implicated in the lawsuits include Google, Meta, and Twitter.
Fox News obtained a copy of the injunction, which suggests that the actions of the government “likely infringe on the Free Speech Clause”. The court further rejects the defense’s arguments, thereby delivering a heavy setback to the White House.
Doughty wrote, “During the pandemic, a time marked by widespread confusion and doubt, the U.S. Government appears to have taken on a role akin to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth.'”
The injunction further claims that if the plaintiffs’ accusations hold water, this might be the most substantial assault on free speech in the history of the United States. The government, especially the defendants named in the case, seem to have flagrantly disregarded the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech in their pursuit to stifle supposed misinformation.
Interestingly, the injunction contends that the alleged censorship targeted conservative speech nearly exclusively, yet points out that the matters raised by the case go beyond partisan politics.
Doughty stated that discriminating based on viewpoint is particularly objectionable, and the government should refrain from controlling speech when the driving force behind the restriction is the speaker’s perspective or ideology.
If the allegations are upheld, it could result in a significant reduction of interactions between tech firms and government officials in the future, barring exceptions for national security risks or criminal activities on social media.
The attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana warmly received the injunction on Tuesday.
“Happy birthday America. You get your First Amendment back!!!” Andrew Bailey, Missouri AG, tweeted.
Jeff Landry, Louisiana AG, in a statement, said, “Today’s historic ruling is a major leap forward in the ongoing battle against unconstitutional censorship by our government. We are excited to continue litigating the case and will fiercely contest the injunction on appeal.”