published : 2023-09-09

Biden Administration Violated First Amendment Over COVID-19 Content on Social Media, Court of Appeals Rules

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry called the ruling a 'major win against censorship'

A photo of President Biden delivering a speech on COVID-19 policies, taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

In a landmark ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans declared that the Biden administration had infringed upon the First Amendment by pressuring social media platforms to remove controversial COVID-19 content.

The court panel, composed of two George W. Bush nominees and one Trump nominee, stated in its 75-page judgment that the President, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FBI, and the surgeon general were not allowed to coerce social media platforms into removing content they deemed problematic.

However, the court dismissed the language from a previous ruling by a Louisiana judge that barred the government from contacting social media platforms to urge content takedowns.

Under the new ruling, the administration has 10 days to seek a Supreme Court review.

This ruling emerged from a lawsuit initiated by Missouri and Louisiana along with a conservative website owner and four critics of the administration's COVID-19 policy.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry addressing a press conference on the First Amendment ruling, captured with a Nikon D850.

The lawsuit accused the Biden administration of threatening platforms like X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook with antitrust lawsuits and changes to federal liability protection laws to silence conservative voices.

According to the Washington Post, the ruling highlighted that the administration had 'coerced the platforms to make their moderation decisions by way of intimidating messages and threats of adverse consequences,' thereby infringing upon the First Amendment.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry hailed the ruling as a 'major win against censorship.'

The Fifth Circuit also deemed a previous injunction by U.S. District Court Judge Terry A. Doughty 'overbroad' as it restricted the administration from engaging in lawful conduct.

However, nine out of ten provisions of the preliminary injunction were considered unnecessary and duplicative, as stated by the Fifth Circuit.

Protesters holding signs advocating for free speech and against censorship, photographed using a Sony A7 III.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, and the State Department were subsequently removed from the injunction.

The White House maintained its stance that social media platforms had a responsibility to consider the impact of their platforms on the American people and make independent decisions regarding the information they present.

The White House spokesperson stated, 'Our consistent view remains that social media platforms have a critical responsibility to take account of the effects their platforms are having on the American people, but make independent choices about the information they present.'

The Biden administration has been given the opportunity to seek a Supreme Court review within the next 10 days.