A federal appeals court Friday significantly eased a lower court’s order curbing the Biden administration’s communications with social media companies over controversial content about COVID-19 and other issues.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said Friday that the White House, the Surgeon General, the Centers for Disease Control and the FBI cannot “coerce” social media platforms to take down posts the government doesn’t like.
But the court tossed out broader language in an order that a Louisiana-based federal judge had issued July 4 that effectively blocked multiple government agencies from contacting platforms like Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) to urge the removal of content.
But the appeals court’s softened order won’t take effect immediately. The Biden administration has 10 days to seek a review by the Supreme Court.
Friday evening’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed in northeast Louisiana that accused administration officials of coercing platforms to take down content under the threat of possible antitrust actions or changes to federal law shielding them from lawsuits over their users’ posts.
COVID-19 vaccines, the FBI’s handling of a laptop that belonged to President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, and election fraud allegations were among the topics spotlighted in the lawsuit, which accused the administration of using threats of regulatory action to squelch conservative points of view.
The states of Missouri and Louisiana filed the lawsuit, along with a conservative website owner and four people opposed to the administration’s COVID-19 policy.
In a posting on X, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry called Friday’s ruling “a major win against censorship.”
In an unsigned 75-page opinion, three 5th Circuit judges agreed with the plaintiffs that the administration “ran afoul of the First Amendment” by at times threatening social media platforms with antitrust action or changes to law protecting them from liability.
But the court excised much of U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty’s broad July 4 ruling, saying mere encouragement to take down content doesn’t always cross a constitutional line.
“As an initial matter, it is axiomatic that an injunction is overbroad if it enjoins a defendant from engaging in legal conduct. Nine of the preliminary injunction’s ten prohibitions risk doing just that. Moreover, many of the provisions are duplicative of each other and thus unnecessary,” Friday’s ruling said.
The ruling also removed some agencies from the order: the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency and the State Department.
The case was heard by judges Jennifer Walker Elrod and Edith Brown Clement, nominated to the court by former President George W. Bush; and Don Willett, nominated by former President Donald Trump. Doughty was nominated to the federal bench by Trump.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to us to discuss your specific needs. Our team is ready and eager to provide you with tailored solutions that align with your firm’s goals and enhance your digital marketing efforts. We look forward to helping you grow your law practice online.
Blog Post Writing
We do well-researched, timely, and engaging blog posts that resonate with your clientele, positioning you as a thought leader in your domain.
Beyond articles and content for blogs, we delve into comprehensive content pieces like eBooks, and case studies, tailored to showcase your expertise.
Website Content Writing: First impressions matter. Our content ensures your website reflects the professionalism, dedication, and expertise you bring to the table.
Social Media Management
In today’s interconnected world, your online presence extends to social platforms. We help you navigate this terrain, ensuring your voice is consistently represented and heard.
WordPress Website Maintenance
Your digital office should be as polished and functional as your physical one. We ensure your WordPress site remains updated, secure, and user-friendly.
For more information, ad placements in our attorney blog network, article requests, social media management, or listings on our top 10 attorney sites, reach out to us at email@example.com.