U.S. judge blocks Biden officials from contacts with social media companies

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked key Biden administration agencies and officials from meeting and communicating with social media companies, in an extraordinary injunction in an ongoing case that could have profound effects on the First Amendment.

The injunction came in response to a lawsuit brought by Republican attorneys general in Louisiana and Missouri, who allege that government officials went too far in their efforts to encourage social media companies to address posts that they worried could contribute to vaccine hesitancy during the pandemic or upend elections. The Trump-appointed judge’s move could upend years of efforts to enhance coordination between the government and social media companies.

The injunction was a victory for the state attorneys general, who have accused the Biden administration of enabling a “sprawling federal ‘Censorship Enterprise’” to encourage tech giants to remove politically unfavorable viewpoints and speakers, and for conservatives who’ve accused the government of suppressing their speech. In their filings, the attorneys general alleged the actions amount to “the most egregious violations of the First Amendment in the history of the United States of America.”

GOP: Biden violated First Amendment by pressing Big Tech on covid misinformation

The judge, Terry A. Doughty, has yet to make a final ruling in the case, but in the injunction, he wrote that the Republican attorneys general “have produced evidence of a massive effort by Defendants, from the White House to federal agencies, to suppress speech based on its content.”

The ruling could have critical implications for tech companies, which regularly communicate with government officials, especially during elections and emergencies, such as the coronavirus pandemic.

In his order, the judge made some exceptions for communications between the government officials and the companies, including to warn them of national security threats or criminal activity.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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