Justice Department officials and the White House complained that Doughty’s widely worded injunction barring various officials and agencies from discouraging social media companies from hosting First Amendment-protected content was difficult to implement and it could lead cautious federal officials to refuse to deal with companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google.
Doughty’s order included exceptions for various categories of content including criminal activity, signs of malicious computer activity, and threats to safety or public safety, but DOJ attorneys said those categories were ill-defined.
The stay – albeit temporary – underscores that Doughty’s ruling is unlikely to be the last word on an issue that has enlivened the political right. House conservatives questioned FBI Director Chris Wray about the ruling during a hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
In addition, the subcommittee of the federal government’s House Judiciary Committee on Armament has scheduled a hearing for Thursday to discuss the lawsuit that led to Doughty’s order. Among the scheduled witnesses is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a long-term candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The appellate court order did not explain the reasons for granting what the court called a « temporary administrative stay » of Doughty’s injunction. The order on Friday was issued by Judge Carl Stewart, appointed by President Bill Clinton; Judge James Graves, appointed by President Barack Obama; and Judge Andrew Oldham, nominated by President Donald Trump.
Doughty, based in Monroe, Louisiana, is also a Trump appointee.