“During the COVID-19 pandemic, a time perhaps best characterized by widespread doubt and uncertainty, the US government appears to have assumed a role akin to an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth’,” Doughty wrote in his opinion of 155 pageswhich was released as most federal courts were closed for the Independence Day holiday.
Doughty’s ruling appears to have immediate effect, but it’s not a final decision on the lawsuit and can be appealed by the Biden administration to the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals based in New Orleans. The Justice Department declined to comment on the ruling on Tuesday. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The judge’s decision cites a wide range of topics that he said « were all suppressed » on social media at the urging of administration officials, including opposition to Covid vaccines, masking, lockdowns and the theory laboratory leaks; opposition to the validity of the 2020 election; opposition to the policies of President Joe Biden and other officials; and statements that the story surrounding a laptop belonging to Biden’s son Hunter Biden was true.
Every « suppressed » argument was a conservative view, which « is pretty telling, » Doughty said.
“This targeted suppression of conservative ideas is a perfect example of point-of-view discrimination in political discourse,” he continued. “American citizens have the right to engage in free debate about significant issues affecting the country…the evidence produced so far paints an almost dystopian picture.”
However, the judge also pointed to past efforts to purge or suppress the content of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an anti-vaccine activist who announced in April that he is challenging Biden for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry hailed the ruling, calling it a « historic injunction » against the Biden administration that prevents it « from censoring the central political discourse of ordinary Americans on social media » in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
« The evidence in our case is shocking and offensive, » Landry added.
The Justice Department argued in the case that federal officials interacting with social media companies were merely encouraging them to police their platforms and that officials’ speech to do so was protected under the First Amendment. Federal officials have denied being threatened or coerced into forcing the companies to de-platform certain speeches or speakers, though senior officials have sometimes denounced the companies in harsh terms.
“They’re killing people,” Biden said in July 2021, after being asked about the presence of anti-vaccine content on Facebook and other sites. “The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated and they are killing people.”
Doughty oversaw the lawsuit filed by the Missouri and Louisiana attorneys general last year, arguing that the administration’s pressure on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube was so intense it amounted to censorship. In a rebuke to Doughty in January, the 5th Circuit blocked attempts to force former White House press secretary Jen Psaki to testify in the case.