A federal appeals court on Friday suspended a judge’s order that had blocked much of the Biden administration from talking to social media sites about content.
The case could have significant First Amendment implications and affect the behavior of social media companies and their cooperation with government agencies.
In its order of three convictions, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said the preliminary injunction issued this month by a Louisiana federal judge would be set aside “until further notice from the court” . The appeals court also asked for expedited pleas in the case.
In the lawsuit, Missouri, Louisiana and five individuals said President Biden’s campaign, his administration and outside groups pressured social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube to remove content they objected to. That content included conservative claims about the coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 presidential election, and a story about Hunter Biden, the president’s son.
Prosecutors won a July 4 victory when Judge Terry A. Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana found they could likely prove that the Biden administration was guilty of an illegal attempt to silence social media speech. platforms to be placed.
“If the plaintiffs’ allegations are true,” Judge Doughty wrote, “the present case may be the most massive assault on free speech in United States history.”
Judge Doughty, who was appointed by President Donald J. Trump in 2017, said the White House and government officials had used private communications and public statements to pressure the tech giants to remove content related to the pandemic and Covid vaccines .
The judge’s preliminary injunction blocked several agencies — including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security — from urging the platforms to scrap “protected free speech.” According to the order, government agencies could still discuss content related to categories including criminal activity, threats to national security and interference in foreign elections.
Legal scholars have said the broad nature of the order could make it difficult for the government to follow through. The Justice Department appealed the order the day after it was issued.
The case comes amid a partisan battle over online speech. For years, Republicans have accused Silicon Valley companies of disproportionately removing posts from the accounts of conservative publishers and personalities. Democrats have said the technology platforms are not removing enough content, allowing false, hateful and violent messages to spread widely.
Republican lawmakers in Texas and Florida passed laws in 2021 prohibiting social media sites from removing certain political content.
The tech industry has challenged those laws under the First Amendment, saying companies have the right to moderate their platforms as they see fit. Many experts believe those legal challenges will eventually make it to the Supreme Court.