Appeals Court Limits Biden Administration’s Ability to Influence Social Media Content

The 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s ruling that the Biden administration improperly coerced social media platforms to edit controversial posts about COVID-19 and other topics.

The panel of three appellate judges, all GOP appointees, upheld a lower court’s restriction on the White House, the FBI, the CDC and the US Surgeon General from pressuring social media companies into taking down “content disfavored by the government.”

The panel ruled that the Biden administration’s effort to “coerce” social media companies into censoring information deemed to be false or harmful about COVID-19, the 2020 elections and other controversial topics was a violation of the First Amendment.

“The officials have engaged in a broad pressure campaign designed to coerce social-media companies into suppressing speakers, viewpoints, and content disfavored by the government,” the panel of three GOP-appointed judges wrote. “The harms that radiate from such conduct extend far beyond just the plaintiffs. It impacts every social media user.”

The ruling is considered a win for conservative groups that have argued social media moderation violates the First Amendment.

The decision is tied to a 2022 lawsuit filed by the attorney generals in Missouri and Louisiana, who alleged that the Biden administration sought to silence conservatives by urging social media companies to censor viewpoints about COVID-19.

That ruling had previously included a wider range of government agencies, including Homeland Security, the U.S. Census Bureau, and Health and Human Services. But those agencies were removed from the order by the 5th Circuit Court.

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