The Biden administration has secured a major victory as an appeals court has lifted a block on the federal government contacting Big Tech companies.
The decision, issued by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, temporarily removes the restriction that had prohibited government agencies and officials from engaging with social media platforms.
The appeals court granted a temporary stay, effective until further instructions are provided, and has called for expediting oral arguments in the case, which are now scheduled for August 10.
This ruling is part of a lawsuit initiated in 2022 by Republican attorneys general from Louisiana and Missouri.
The lawsuit accuses the Biden administration of colluding with tech giants like Twitter and YouTube to censor speech deemed ‘unfavorable.’
U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, ruled that this collusion to censor Americans violates the First Amendment.
Judge Doughty issued a preliminary injunction on July 4, acknowledging allegations of coordinated suppression of information on various topics, including Covid and elections, labeled by the defendants as “misinformation,” “disinformation,” or “malinformation.”
The injunction restrained several officials, including White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, and government agencies from holding meetings or communicating with social media companies with the intention of pressuring or inducing the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content that contains protected free speech.
The order included exceptions for flagging criminal behavior, national security concerns, and election tampering.
“We must establish a clear separation between technology companies and the government to safeguard our First Amendment right to engage in free, fair, and open debate,” stated Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey.
Bailey also praised the judge’s order as a “major victory for the freedom to express opinions without government censorship.”
In response, lawyers from the Department of Justice (DOJ) under Biden filed an appeal and requested a stay from the appeals court after Judge Doughty denied their initial request for a pause.
Their filing argued that the preliminary injunction would “cause the government and the public to suffer irreparable harm” while expressing concerns about the ban being overly vague and broad.
While the final decision in the case is still pending, it has been widely expected that Judge Doughty will side with the litigants, which would bring to a halt more than a decade of collaborative efforts between federal authorities and tech industry leaders who possess significant power to regulate public dialogue.
That ultimate decision now seems to be very much in doubt.