A federal judge has denied the Biden administration’s request to stay his ruling limiting government agencies' communications with social media companies as the matter continues to go through the legal system.
In Monday's ruling, Judge Terry Doughty denied the request to stay his July 4 preliminary injunction temporarily blocking the executive branch officials from “meeting with 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 posted on social-media platforms."
Lawsuits filed by Missouri and Louisiana against Biden alleging unconstitutional censorship continue to move forward.
Doughty, appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana by former President Donald Trump, cited the plaintiffs’ “likelihood of success on the merits” and the defendants’ corresponding failure to “show a likelihood of success on the merits” as the reason for his decision to deny the motion for a stay.
He reiterated the point he made in his initial ruling that the defendants “likely ‘significantly encouraged’ and/or ‘jointly participated’ with the social-media companies to engage in viewpoint-based suppression of protected free speech.”
Doughty outlined actions taken by White House Digital Director for COVID-19 Response Team Clarke Humphrey, asking Twitter to remove a tweet from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. criticizing the COVID-19 vaccines. The court document states that White House Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Digital Strategy Rob Flaherty asked Facebook to censor a video where then-Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Tomi Lahren raised questions about the COVID-19 vaccines.
Additional actions the judge considers problematic include Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy conducting meetings to urge social media companies to combat “health disinformation."
Doughty added that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "had regular contact with social-media platforms via email, phone, and in-person meetings."
"The CDC Defendants received CrowdTangle reports from Facebook as to the 'top engaged COVID and vaccine related content,'" Doughty's memorandum states.
CDC officials flagged assertions that COVID-19 had a 99.96% survival rate and that COVID-19 vaccines weakened the immune system as false, although Doughty believes such statements were “medically debatable.”
“Plaintiffs are likely to prove that all of the enjoined Defendants coerced, significantly encouraged, and/or jointly participated social-media companies to suppress social-media posts by American citizens that expressed opinions that were anti-COVID-19 vaccines, anti-COVID-19 lockdowns, posts that delegitimized or questioned the results of the 2020 election, and other content not subject to any exception to the First Amendment,” Doughty concluded.
Doughty believes the administration encouraged censorship of posts that are "protected free speech" because of their viewpoints.
"Viewpoint discrimination is subject to strict scrutiny," Doughty stated.
“Although this Preliminary Injunction involves numerous agencies, it is not as broad as it appears. It only prohibits something the Defendants have no legal right to do – contacting 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 posted on social-media platforms. It also contains numerous exceptions."
Defendants filed a notice of appeal last Wednesday, one day after he issued his preliminary injunction, which would be heard by a panel of judges on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
On Thursday, the defendants sought the stay of the preliminary injunction pending appeal or an alternative ruling that stayed it for seven days.
The administration believes the order's scope is too broad and "face[s] irreparable harm" because it could prevent the defendants from "engaging in a vast range of lawful and responsible conduct."
Doughty rejected that analysis, stressing that his preliminary injunction “has several exceptions which list things that are [not] prohibited.”
“Defendants cite no specific action that would be prohibited by this Preliminary Injunction that would provide grave harm to the American people or over democratic processes," he wrote.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org