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U.S. Appellate Court Blocks Injunction Against Federal Agencies Acting to Censor Free Speech

social media censorship

Freedom of speech in the United States was delivered a blow on July 14, 2023 when a U.S. Federal Appeals Court issued a temporary stay blocking a preliminary injunction which limited the U.S. Justice Department’s communication with social media companies seeking to remove “content containing protected free speech.” The Appellate Court panel of Judges, Judge Carl Stewart (appointed by President Bill Clinton), Judge James Graves (appointed by President Barack Obama) and Judge Andrew Oldham (appointed by President Donald Trump) did not issue an explanation for their decision in the government’s favor.1 2

The original lawsuit was brought by Former Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry against 67 U.S. federal agencies. The lawsuit accused government officials of engaging in a widespread campaign of pressuring and colluding with social media platforms to censor users’ free speech in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Plaintiffs submitted more than 1,400 pieces of information taken from internal government documents to support their request for a preliminary injunction, which was granted on July 4 by US District Judge Terry Doughty in Louisiana.3 4

In a March 2023 press release explaining why the lawsuit requesting an injunction against federal government officials was important, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey stated:

The motion for preliminary injunction highlights 1,432 facts showing that top officials in the federal government are coercing and colluding with big tech social media companies to censor free speech… This case is the most important free speech lawsuit in a generation, as we highlight more than 1,400 facts showing the Biden Administration’s blatant coercion and collusion with Big Tech social media companies to suppress speech it disagrees with. I will not rest until the court blocks unelected bureaucrats from violating our constitutional right to free and open debate.5

Preliminary Injunction Granted Against the Government

Judge Doughty explained he issued a preliminary injunction against the government due to the “substantial evidence” of censorship demands from the federal agencies and officials to social media companies.6

Judge Doughty wrote:

Evidence produced thus far depicts an almost dystopian scenario. 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.’7

 The preliminary injunction prohibited the federal agencies and officials from engaging in discourse with social media companies that amounted to, “encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.”8

 Justice Department Requests a Stay and Files an Appeal

The Justice Department requested a stay of the court order pending an appeal, but Judge Doughty declined the motion on July 10. Having lost their bid with Judge Doughty, the Justice Department turned to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans requesting an emergency stay, which was granted four days later.9 10

The Justice Department’s 22- page request resulted in the Appellate Court agreeing to temporarily block the preliminary injunction pending appeal and expedite the matter. The lengthy request for a stay suggests that the Justice Department is considering bringing the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.11 12

The Justice Department’s filing complained that the injunction had the potential to prevent the government from protecting the public from misinformation about natural disasters, the fentanyl crisis and the security of national elections.13

The Emergency Appeal argues, in part, that Judge Doughty’s ruling was over-reaching and overly broad, would irreparably harm the government and that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring suit against the federal government under the parens patrai theory.14 The parens patrai theory states that a state may act as a third party to bring a lawsuit that involves the state’s quasi-sovereign interests in order to protect its citizens.15

Government Officials Deny Coercing Social Media Companies to Censor Citizens

The Government argues that the plaintiffs are not likely to succeed on the First Amendment claim because, “…government officials do not violate the First Amendment when they request that a private intermediary not carry a third party’s speech so long as the officials do not threaten adverse consequences if the intermediary refuses to comply.”16

Judge Doughty disagreed. In his 155-page decision granting a preliminary injunction, he concluded that the Plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merit as the government’s actions towards social media companies went beyond mere requests and instead amounted to pressure and “significant encouragement” to remove and suppress free speech to the extent that the social media companies removal and flagging of content was deemed an extension of government action, which violates the First Amendment.

 The Justice Department alleged that the government will suffer irreparable harm because there is the potential that the injunction could be interpreted as limiting the President’s ability to communicate his views of public consequences, which raises a separation of powers issue and could prevent the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from helping social media platforms to make content-moderation decisions on scientific matters for the protection of the public.17

However, in the Order denying the Justice Department’s request for a stay, Judge Doughty clarified that his previous order prohibiting federal agencies and officials of the Biden administration from working with social media companies to censor free speech carved out exceptions for communications related to election interference, national security threats and criminal activity.18

The Order read:

Although this Preliminary Injunction involves numerous agencies, it is not as broad as it appears. It only prohibits something the Defendants have no legal right to do—contacting social media companies for the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner, the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech posted on social-media platforms.19

The matter eventually will be heard by another appeals panel of judges, who will decide whether to extend or deny the government’s request for a stay of the prior order based on the merits of the case.


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Click here to view References:

1 Berman D. Appeals court pauses order blocking Biden administration from communicating with social media companies. CNN July 14, 2023.
2 Gerstein J, Cheney K. Appeals court temporarily blocks order that restricted feds’ contact with social media firms. Politico June 14, 2023.
3 Hendler C. Officials at Federal Gov’t Agencies, White House Sued for Censoring COVID Information. The Vaccine Reaction June 19, 2023.
4 Salter J. Judge limits Biden administraton in working with social media companies. Associated Press July 4, 2023.
5 Andrew Bailey Missouri Attorney General. Press Release. Mar. 6, 2023
6 CBS News. Judge limits Biden administration’s contact with social media companies. July 4, 2023.
7 Ibid.
8 CBS News. Judge limits Biden administration’s contact with social media companies. July 4, 2023.
9 Zakrzewski C, Starks T. Justice Dept. asks 5th Circuit to delay judge’s social media order. The Washington Post July 10, 2023.
10 Gerstein J, Cheney K. Appeals court temporarily blocks order that restricted feds’ contact with social media firms. Politico June 14, 2023.
11 Quinn M. Appeals court halts order barring Biden administration communications with social media companies. CBS News July 14, 2023.
12 CBS News. Judge limits Biden administration’s contact with social media companies. July 4, 2023.
13 Ibid.
14 State Of Missouri; State of Louisiana; Aaron Kheriaty; Martin Kulldorff et al. v. Joseph R. Biden, Jr.; Vivek H. Murthy; Xavier Becerra; Department Of Health & Human Services; Anthony Fauci, Et Al., Case: 23-30445 Document: 11 Page: 1 July 10, 2023.
15 Cornell Law School. parens patriae.
16 State Of Missouri; State of Louisiana; Aaron Kheriaty; Martin Kulldorff et al. v. Joseph R. Biden, Jr.; Vivek H. Murthy; Xavier Becerra; Department Of Health & Human Services; Anthony Fauci, Et Al., Case: 23-30445 Document: 11 Page: 1 July 10, 2023.
17 Ibid.
18 CBS News. Judge limits Biden administration’s contact with social media companies. July 4, 2023.
19 Ibid.

24 Responses

  1. This could keep bouncing from court to court for years. Meanwhile the government continues to increase it destruction of our privacy and free speech.

  2. Fascist judges who seek to undermine constitutional protections need to be impeached & imprisoned as traitors to the United States.

    1. I agree 1000%. There was a time treason was punished by death. Now, they aren’t even recognized. How sad and how dangerous a time we live in.

  3. Only the respect for judicial authority, grants judicial authority. These people are not the boss of me, or you for that matter. Respect is earned by way of a trust system. We The People, will not be silenced by corrupted politicians or their corporate handlers. That being said, who cares what they rule? We will not be silenced because we are free.

    Never cared for what they do. Never cared for what they know. Never opened myself this way. Life is ours we live it our way. All these words I don’t just say. And nothing else matters. Never cared for what they do. Never cared for what they know. Never cared for games they play. And I know!

    1. The distrust has been growing for years. For one reason only.
      our government, the agencies and the media dishonesty has grow from misleading to flat out lies. They’ve been caught numerous times with their own poorly directed propaganda to try and fool the public.
      So sorry you didn’t take the time to do your own research and fell for the US propaganda.
      Fauci lied to Congress and to the public over funding the Wuhan lab.

  4. This is strictly a *procedural* block, not a judge overturning the stay on any particular grounds. The case has ben expedited and oral arguments should start in early August.

  5. This case has been consolidated with Kennedy v. Biden also in Western District Fed Crt, but the consolidation will not take place till after this crts ruling. Some of the plaintiffs mainly 3 Mds and a Jill Hines, the local plaintiff to get jurisdiction, put forth somewhat derogatory opposition to Mr. Kennedy and Children’s Health Defense as plaintiffs. Not sure but why would ppl in the “Health freedom movement” go after RKJr?

  6. Is it possible to write this in English rather than legal-eze? This makes perfect sense to a lawyer, no doubt, but not to the general reader. Isn’t this who you are writing for?

    1. It IS , in English.
      I am not a Lawyer , I understood it just fine. The Latin Law phrases were translated into English. Well written , to the point. Two thumbs up.

  7. The vaccine debate has been co-opted by Russian propagandists for the purpose of spreading distrust in American institutions and the spreading of toxic divisiveness in American society. Russian-compromised Trump and his Republican cult have fueled these efforts.

    These impostor antivaxers can be identified by the following behavior:
    -speaking in extreme language and hyperbole
    -threatening violence and harm to those who disagree
    -encouraging and celebrating the deliberate spread of disease
    -dissemination of unsupported conspiracy theories
    -dehumanization of those who disagree like health officials like Dr Fauci
    -undermining the credibility of health institutions like the CDC and FDA
    -deteriorating overall faith in government

    This is coordinated propaganda with a goal of destruction. This is not “free speech”. Federal agencies are right to protect us from this destructive propaganda.

    These Russian and Republican subversives are making us look bad. They co-opt our cause for nefarious ends. They are single-handedly ensuring the vaccine debate cannot even exist in social media. THEY are the ones to blame.

    As moral and informed advocates for credible and sensible vaccine policy we all support these efforts by Federal Agencies to curb destructive propaganda that paints our cause in a bad light.

    We must disassociate ourselves from these Russian and Republican subversives by committing ourselves to circumspect, credible language; by not engaging in conspiracy theory but by staying grounded in reality using well-supported evidence; by showing respect to those we may disagree with; by using distortion-free non-inflammatory language; by respect for institutions and focusing our disagreements with policy; by taking non-extreme positions that acknowledge the needs and desires of others; by always recognizing and honoring everyone’s inherent humanity.

      1. You are sooooo wrong , on the facts.
        I do agree with your principles , but they are completely misplaced here.
        Yes,
        the low brow end Republicans,
        ( Trumpsters, stop the steal loonies are full of “it” ).
        But there is no ” science” prooving “Vaccine” effectiveness.
        It is Absolutely False , to call it a “Vaccine” , or ,
        ” Science”.
        It is Experimental Gene Therapy , Not a Vaccine. A vaccine uses the dead or weakened virus , this Experimental gene therapy does not.
        “Science”, is testing triple blind study , using group 1, to take the drug , “vaccine” etc. Group 2 takes the placebo , and Group 3 the Control group takes neither.
        That… is basic science , which is Not being applied here.
        Funky Faucci always admits that Natural immunity is good , but then conflates it with being better with the “vaccine”.
        The Pharma Co. received many Billions if $$$ while our Civil Liberties were stripped , in a practice run for future ” Emergencies”.
        You must obtain your info from a variety of sources. As this article shows , Social Media & the Government , are in the pocket of big Pharma . Ca-Ching !!
        .

    1. Wow that’s total propaganda you spew!! Read The Real Anthony Fauci. This book is fully vetted and the truth will really shock you. It’s not Republicans destroying freedom. It is globalists, elites, corruption and billionaires. Put the blame where it squarely belongs.

      1. Republicans are destroying freedom; that’s what everyone says. The Republican Supreme Court is demolishing freedoms one after the other; from enshrined civil liberties to abortion rights. Republican state legislatures are rolling back voting rights, burning books, gagging teachers, ending civil liberties for LGBTQ and minority groups and so on. Everyone is in agreement on that point. How very strange to blame “corruption” for destroying freedom in one breath and exonerate Republicans in the next; there seems to be a large Trump-sized hole in your consciousness.

        I’ll pass on reading RFKjr’s book. The wiki doesn’t paint a pretty picture. It claims the book includes statements from “Tucker Carlson, Naomi Wolf, Oliver Stone, and Alan Dershowitz.” Well that’s four problems right off the bat (the very idea of entertaining Tucker Carlson for even one second…) The book purportedly promotes hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin…”fully vetted” indeed. Then it dusts off the old “HIV doesn’t really cause AIDS” trope that depends on the outdated Koch’s postulates straw-man. I’ll bet his vaccine info is very good, minus some hyperbole, but it’s just not worth going through all the aforementioned crap.

        Here’s some non-crap suggested reading:

        https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/04/09/in-the-united-states-russian-trolls-are-peddling-measles-disinformation-on-twitter/
        “A recent study from David Broniatowski, a professor at George Washington University, and his co-authors found that thousands of Russian accounts used to spread disinformation had seized on anti-vaccine messaging.
        After combing through nearly 2 million tweets recorded between 2014 and 2017, the researchers found that Russian troll accounts were significantly more likely to tweet about vaccination than general Twitter users. They had turned to vaccines as a wedge issue in an effort to ramp up social discord, erode trust in public health institutions, and exacerbate fear and division in the United States.”

        https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2022/11/gop-congress-2022-midterm-elections-rights/671996/
        “How a GOP Congress Could Roll Back Freedoms Nationwide: The rights reversal taking place in conservative states is just the beginning.”

        https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/big-pharma-donates-big-to-gop-lawmakers-3801215/
        “Big Pharma is showering lawmakers on Capitol Hill with campaign contributions and favoring Republicans in the House and Senate who show political promise. The crushing costs of drugs has returned to the policy-making spotlight as Democrats in the House, with a few defecting Republicans, have approved a bill to limit the soaring price of insulin to $35 a month for most Americans who have insurance and whose health and lives depend on the increasingly unaffordable medication.”

        https://www.citizensforethics.org/reports-investigations/crew-reports/president-trump-legacy-corruption-3700-conflicts-interest/
        “As president, Donald Trump has flouted all kinds of norms, starting with his decision not to divest from his business interests while in office. That set the stage for an administration marked by self-interest, profiteering at the highest levels and more than 3,700 conflicts of interest.”

        1. Wow.

          These were actions by the Democrats and yet you feel the need to point the finger at the Republicans and Trump.
          Was Trump urging and goading social media to censor ‘misinformation’ that they disagreed with? Nope, it was the Biden government. All the way.

          The fact that you refuse to read a book, yet have the gonads to critique based on biased 3rd party opinions speaks volumes about where you’re coming from.

        2. You are wrong. It is Biden ant he dems who are destroying First AMendment rights and promoting censorship. We have a right to say our opinions, even if they are wrong!!! In this case the opinions of the Dems and Biden are false and fake news. They have no right to censor the truth!

    2. The distrust has been growing for years for one reason only. The dishonesty from our government, the agencies and the media. They’ve been caught numerous times with their own propaganda to try and fool the public.
      Fauci lied to Congress, lied to the public and should be held in contempt.

    3. You are clearly delusional and have been brainwashed to believe in these leftist lies. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a cure for this current mental health crisis we are suffering through in our country! The FDA, CDC, NIH, and current administration do not have the best interests of We The People in mind! All they care about is the narrative and lining their greedy pockets!

    4. Try again. AFTER actually reading the CDC and FDA’s own links that RFK Jr. accurately cites to back up his claims. It is your own health agencies’ data he uses to prove his points. If you don’t like those points, you should be looking to the agencies to correct the record. They won’t… So you have quite the conundrum. Choose to continue hero worship agencies that speak untruths in comparison to the reality they post… or start to question and ask why the agencies won’t back up their claims and act with integrity. Should you choose door #2, welcome to being falsely labeled an “anti-vaxxer”

    5. Trump hasn’t admitted the Op Warp Speed was a huge mistake yet. For this reason I almost believe he deserves what he is getting in the courts. All the athletes dropping dead from heart issues is Russian propaganda? All the people never waking up is Russian propaganda? The insurance companies saying who is going to pay for all these group life insurance dead people because statistically they should not have died is Russian propaganda? The excess people out on disability and the in ability of corporations to fill positions is Russian propaganda? Say the Russians developed the stupid shot in a Ukrainian and Chinese bioweapons lab if you want to decided to decimate our economy and kill our loved ones if you want but the reality of what is happening around us is not Russian propaganda. Maybe the NIH who funded these bioweapons labs weapons labs worked for the Russians but the people we love dying and being hurt is not propaganda. If anyone is believing the propaganda it is you.

  8. The Constitution (and treaties made pursuant to it) are “the highest law of the land.” This judge has placed something else above the Constitution, such as Government, or procedures. If judges do that, they say we only get our rights once some official says we can. This is indeed treason. And oath-breaking.
    Our Republic cannot survive a heavily treasonous judiciary. SOMEthing will give. The will be a Revival, or citizens will retake this country from the bottom up at county and city level–or we will be enslaved and killed and maybe “the elements will melt with fervent heat” at The End of the World.
    More and more patriots are seeing things this way. If you are concerned–be aware that every violent Revolution has led to a more damaging government. What brings about more freedom is more responsibility in PEACEFUL ways.
    For the US (or elsewhere) begin by getting involved locally.

  9. Aaron C either you are bot or a complete idiot. Why are you on this site if you believe in censorship, forced poison and dont want to learn the truth about what our government has done and continues to do to We The People? go back to youtube

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