A U.S. District Court judge this week banned an extensive list of top Biden administration officials from meeting or communicating with social media companies on the topic of restricting online speech.
The injunction issued Tuesday by Louisiana Judge Terry A. Doughty ruled that the Biden administration likely violated the First Amendment as it pressured social media companies to censor speech it deemed misinformation on topics such as the COVID-19 vaccine and election integrity.
Officials named in the injunction include White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
The injunction came in response to lawsuits from the Republican attorneys general in Louisiana and Missouri.
Doughty specifically named a number of federal agencies as being temporarily banned from communication with social media communities on content moderation. It wasn’t clear if this means all employees of the agencies are included in the restriction or if listed agencies would curtail all of these activities among all employees.
The list of agencies included the Department of Health and Human Services, which did not respond to a request for comment, as well as several offices within the agency, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The Department of Homeland Security was also named and did not respond to a request for comment.
The Department of Justice, which declined to comment, was named along with the FBI and the State Department.
Doughty wrote in the injunction that the federal government’s efforts to restrict speech online “likely violate the Free Speech Clause” and “almost exclusively targeted conservative speech.”
“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 added. “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.”