On the Fourth of July, millions of patriotic Americans were busy celebrating their independence from British tyranny. While most of the country was occupied with patriotic merrymaking, however, Louisiana U.S. District Court Judge Terry A. Doughty managed to quietly give conservatives a little bit more freedom to celebrate.
According to Fox News, Doughty issued an injunction Tuesday that prevents officials in President Joe Biden’s administration from meeting and coordinating with Big Tech giants like Google, Meta (formerly Facebook) and Twitter, citing First Amendment free-speech concerns raised in a lawsuit by attorneys general from Louisiana and Missouri.
The Washington Post — as always, striking a worried note — called the injunction “the most successful legal effort to date to counter tech company moderation efforts.”
The suits allege that the Biden White House either coerced or “significantly encourage[d]” censorship of certain views, particularly related to the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines or election security, in meetings with representatives from those companies.
The attorneys general argued the Biden administration had enabled a “sprawling federal ‘Censorship Enterprise’” which amounted to “the most egregious violations of the First Amendment in the history of the United States of America” in curtailing “protected speech” online.
While Doughty’s ruling isn’t final, the judge wrote in his injunction that the attorneys general “have produced evidence of a massive effort by Defendants, from the White House to federal agencies, to suppress speech based on its content.”
With some exceptions involving national security threats, voter suppression or other criminal activity, the injunction prohibits a wide swath of individuals and executive agencies from coordinating with Big Tech.
This includes some of Biden’s cabinet members and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, a period perhaps best characterized by widespread doubt and uncertainty, the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth,’” Doughty wrote in his injunction, noting the government’s role in suppressing online expression “likely violate the Free Speech Clause” and the court “is not persuaded by Defendants’ arguments.
“If the allegations made by Plaintiffs are true, the present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history,” he continues. “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.”
And, while Doughty wrote that “the censorship alleged in this case almost exclusively targeted conservative speech,” he noted that the implications go “beyond party lines.”
“Viewpoint discrimination is an especially egregious form of content discrimination,” Doughty wrote. “The government must abstain from regulating speech when the specific motivating ideology or the perspective of the speaker is the rationale for the restriction.”
Reactions, as you might imagine, depended on where you fell on the political spectrum.
“Happy birthday America. You get your First Amendment back!!!” tweeted Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, along with an American flag emoji.