In a case brought by the attorneys general of two states, U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty ruled last week that the Biden administration likely violated the First Amendment when it pressured social media platforms to suppress views it said were false. He also granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting the administration from talking to social media companies for “the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.”

The Department of Justice has appealed the ruling and injunction, which are preliminary and subject to a more intense evidentiary phase, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. We are probably about to be treated to an epic exploration of the esoterics of First Amendment law: the Biden administration claims it was justified in its efforts because the “misinformation” it targeted would have misled and harmed the public; and the attorneys general claim that the Biden team was simply trying to suppress conservative viewpoints with which it disagreed.


For now, we have Judge Doughty reasoning. In his decision, he cited opposition to Covid vaccines and masking requirements, as well as support for the lab leak theory for the Covid outbreak, as suppressed topics in question. Rejection of the validity of the 2020 election and opposition to particular Biden administration policies were also listed, as well as the Hunter Biden laptop story.

That each topic involved a conservative viewpoint “is quite telling,” he said:

This targeted suppression of conservative ideas is a perfect example of viewpoint discrimination of political speech. American citizen have the right to engage in free debate about the significant issues affecting the country … the evidence produced thus far depicts an almost dystopian scenario.

Instead of focusing on whether or not the appeals court will ultimately agree with the president that the First Amendment provides enough wiggle room for his efforts at suppression, we should weigh carefully whether we are comfortable with elected officials exercising control over what we get to read and hear about on social media.

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