A U.S. District Court judge is temporarily preventing White House officials from meeting with tech companies about social media censorship, arguing that such actions in the past were likely First Amendment violations.
The Tuesday injunction by Louisiana Judge Terry A. Doughty was in response to recent lawsuits from Louisiana and Missouri attorneys general. The suits allege that the White House coerced or ‘significantly encourage[d]’ tech companies to suppress free speech during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Doughty is barring several federal officials and agencies – including some of Biden’s Cabinet members and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre – from contacting social media companies in efforts to suppress speech.
Google, Meta and Twitter were all named in the lawsuits.
The injunction, which was obtained by Fox News, states that the government’s actions ‘likely violate the Free Speech Clause’ and that the court ‘is not persuaded by Defendants’ arguments,’ dealing a significant blow to the White House.
‘During the COVID-19 pandemic, a period perhaps best characterized by widespread doubt and uncertainty, the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth,’’ Doughty wrote.
‘If the allegations made by Plaintiffs are true, the present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history,’ the injunction adds. ‘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 injunction also claims that ‘the censorship alleged in this case almost exclusively targeted conservative speech,’ but that issues the case raises are ‘beyond party lines.’
‘Viewpoint discrimination is an especially egregious form of content discrimination,’ Doughty argued. ‘The government must abstain from regulating speech when the specific motivating ideology or the perspective of the speaker is the rationale for the restriction.’
The cases could mean that interactions between tech companies and government officials may be significantly limited in the future. Exceptions might include national security threats or criminal matters on social media.
The injunction received favorable responses from the Missouri and Louisiana attorneys general on Tuesday.
‘Happy birthday America. You get your First Amendment back!!!’ Missouri AG Andrew Bailey wrote in a tweet.
‘Today’s historic ruling is a big step in the continued fight to prohibit our government from unconstitutional censorship,’ Louisiana AG Jeff Landry said in a statement. ‘We look forward to continuing to litigate the case and will vigorously defend the injunction on appeal.’
Fox News Digital reached out to the White House, Google, Meta and Twitter for statements, but has not heard back. The Department of Justice declined to comment.