On Friday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that the Biden Administration violated the First Amendment when it pressured social media platforms to remove posts about COVID-19 and the elections.
The three-person panel ruled that the administration used "intimidating messages and threats of adverse consequences” to control the content moderation decisions for the companies.
"It is true that the officials have an interest in engaging with social media companies, including on issues such as misinformation and election interference," the decision read. "But the government is not permitted to advance these interests to the extent that it engages in viewpoint suppression."
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey said in a post on X, "The First Amendment remains intact." He continued, "The first brick was laid in the wall of separation between tech and state on July 4th, and this ruling is yet another brick. Missouri will continue to lead the way in the fight to defend our most fundamental freedoms."
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry told USA TODAY, "This is a significant victory for the American people." He added, "And it confirms what we have said from the very beginning: the federal government is not permitted to engage in viewpoint suppression, no matter your political ideology."
The White House said in a statement, "DOJ is reviewing the court’s decision and will evaluate its options in this case." It continued, "This administration has promoted responsible actions to protect public health, safety, and security when confronted by challenges like a deadly pandemic and foreign attacks on our elections."
"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 statement read.
The suit was brought by then-Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt along with Lousiana's AG, and five private plaintiffs earlier this year after email exchanges between the White House's former director of digital media, Rob Flaherty, and social media companies "prove[d] the companies put Covid censorship policies in place in response to relentless, coercive pressure from the White House—not voluntarily."
US District Judge Terry Doughty said in his July 4 ruling on Missouri v. Biden that "the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian 'Ministry of Truth'."
The details of Missouri v. Biden corroborated information released in The Twitter files that revealed government agencies such as the FBI had communicated with the tech platform behind the scenes for several years in regard to censoring what they deemed to be "misinformation" off of the platform.
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