Biden administration dealt legal setback in social media censorship case

September 11, 2023

This past July saw federal Judge Terry Doughty issue a preliminary injunction forbidding multiple federal agencies from contacting social media platforms "for the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing" censorship.

In a development that is sure to leave the Biden administration mad, a federal appeals court has opted to uphold much of Doughty's injunction. 

Injunction has wide-ranging implications

According to Breitbart, that ruling represents the latest turn in Missouri v. Biden, a case challenging the federal government's ability to control online content.

This past Friday, justices on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the FBI, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), White House press secretary, and other administration figures should be restricted in their dealings with social media outlets.

Specifically, they may "take no actions, formal or informal, directly or indirectly, to coerce or significantly encourage social-media companies to remove, delete, suppress, or reduce, including through altering their algorithms, posted social-media content containing protected free speech."

"That includes, but is not limited to, compelling the platforms to act, such as by intimating that some form of punishment will follow a failure to comply with any request, or supervising, directing, or otherwise meaningfully controlling the social-media companies’ decision-making processes," the court's order added.

Social media companies removed 50% of posts flagged by FBI

The justices recalled how during 2021 and 2022, social media companies responded to the FBI's flagging of content by removing posts in 50% of cases.

However, Breitbart pointed out that some agencies and individuals named in Doughty's original injunction were removed.

They included the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), an entity which "provides regional cyber and physical services to support security and resilience across the United States."

That move brought criticism from Mike Benz, a former State Department official who currently heads the Foundation for Freedom Online. In a tweet posted on Friday, he called the CISA's exclusion "utter insanity."

Critics disappointed that CISA was exempted

Uncover DC editor-in-chief Tracy Beanz spoke up as well, saying that carving out an exemption for the CISA was grounds for "disappointment."

"CISA and the SD (State Department) directly engaged with the platforms and discussed the tools and techniques that foreign influence actors would use," she tweeted.

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