A federal judge in Louisiana has ruled that the Biden administration likely violated the First Amendment in their efforts to censor views on social media that were unfavorable to them. According to Politico, U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty called the efforts “Orwellian,” and is prohibiting a number of federal officials and agencies from contacting social media platforms with the goal to censor speech.
Topics that Doughty found were targeted by the administration included COVID vaccines, masking, lockdowns, opposition to the Biden administration’s policies, and Hunter Biden’s laptop among others. Doughty warned that the evidence of censoring the speech of political opponents points to “an almost dystopian scenario.” The suppressed speech for each topic appeared to pertain only to the conservative viewpoint, which Doughty suggested, is “quite telling,” noting that doing so is “a perfect example of viewpoint discrimination of political speech.”
Judge Doughty’s ruling comes in the middle of a long-standing lawsuit headed by Republican-led states “alleging that the administration pressured social media companies to remove posts containing purported misinformation about the coronavirus, election security and other issues.” In a 155-page opinion, Doughty shared evidence suggesting the Biden administration urged social media companies to heed their request to suppress speech and he likened the United States Government during the COVID pandemic to an “Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth.’”
Despite Doughty calling out the administration for what appears to be government censorship, the Justice Department argued that when officials were communicating with social media companies, they were “simply encouraging them to police their platforms and that the officials’ speech in doing so was protected by the First Amendment.” Federal officials denied that they ever threatened or coerced the social media companies into suppressing dissenting opinions. The Biden administration can appeal to the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as Doughty’s ruling is not a final decision on the lawsuit.