U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty has issued a preliminary injunction blocking federal government entities and figures from exerting pressure on social media companies to censor what they deem as “protected free speech” on their platforms. The plaintiffs, in this case, have alleged that the government abused its authority to trample upon the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech rights.
In his ruling, Judge Doughty expressed concern over what he referred to as potentially the most significant attack on free speech in U.S. history. According to the allegations made by the plaintiffs, the federal government, particularly the defendants named in the case, colluded with or coerced social media platforms into suppressing speakers, viewpoints, and content that they disfavored.
“If the allegations made by Plaintiffs are true, the present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history. In their attempts to suppress alleged disinformation, the Federal Government, and particularly the Defendants named here, are alleged to have blatantly ignored the First Amendment’s right to free speech,” Doughty wrote.
“The Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits in establishing that the Government has used its power to silence the opposition,” wrote Doughty. He highlighted that a wide range of viewpoints had been suppressed, including opposition to COVID-19 vaccines, mask mandates, and lockdowns, as well as skepticism regarding the lab-leak theory of COVID-19. The judge also noted that statements supporting the validity of the 2020 election, opposition to President Biden’s policies, and claims regarding the veracity of the Hunter Biden laptop story had been targeted for suppression.
Doughty further emphasized that the examples of suppressed speech predominantly leaned towards conservative ideas, indicating a clear instance of viewpoint discrimination in political speech. He drew a parallel between the government’s actions and an Orwellian “Ministry of Truth,” suggesting that the U.S. government had assumed a role of controlling and shaping the narrative during a time marked by widespread uncertainty and doubt caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plaintiffs include the states of Missouri and Louisiana, as well as Dr. Jayanta Bhattacharya and several other individuals. On the other side, the defendants encompass President Joe Biden, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, several other individuals, and multiple government entities.
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, in a tweet, expressed his distrust in the federal government’s ability to protect Americans’ rights and hailed the preliminary injunction as a significant victory in the defense of fundamental freedoms. He made it clear that this injunction marked only the beginning of their fight.
The federal government cannot be trusted to protect Americans’ rights, which is precisely why our Founders enshrined the First Amendment into the Constitution.
— Attorney General Andrew Bailey (@AGAndrewBailey) July 4, 2023
The ruling by Judge Doughty reflects the growing concerns among conservative voices regarding the potential suppression of their viewpoints on social media platforms. It remains to be seen how this case will develop and what impact it may have on the ongoing discourse surrounding free speech rights and the influence of the government on private platforms.
NEW — A federal judge has issued an order instructing the FBI, DHS, and other government agencies to cease their collaboration with social media companies in censoring First Amendment-protected free speech.
Happy Independence Day! 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/IwcAYj3zog
— KanekoaTheGreat (@KanekoaTheGreat) July 4, 2023