Appeals court stays order limiting Biden administration’s contact with social media companies

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court on Friday temporarily stayed a lower court order limiting executive branch officials’ communications with social media companies regarding controversial online posts.

Lawyers for the Biden administration had asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to stay the preliminary injunction issued July 4 by U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty. Doughty himself had denied a request to suspend his order pending appeal.

Friday’s brief 5th Circuit order stayed Doughty’s order “until further court order.” He asked that arguments in the case be scheduled on an expedited basis.

Filed last year, the lawsuit claimed that the administration had effectively censored free speech by discussing possible regulatory actions the government could take while pressuring companies to suppress what she considered misinformation. COVID-19 vaccines, legal issues involving President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, and allegations of voter fraud were among the topics highlighted in the lawsuit.

Doughty, appointed to the federal bench by former President Donald Trump, issued an Independence Day order and accompanying reasons that covered more than 160 pages. He said the plaintiffs were likely to win their pending lawsuit. His injunction prevented the Department of Health and Human Services, the FBI, and several other government agencies and administration officials “from encouraging, coercing, or inducing in any way the removal, suppression , removal or reduction of content containing protected freedom of expression”.

Administration lawyers said the order was too broad and vague, raising questions about what officials may say in conversations with social media companies or in public statements. They said Doughty’s order posed a threat of “serious” public harm by crippling the executive branch’s efforts to tackle online misinformation.

Doughty denied the administration’s stay request on Monday, writing: ‘Defendants argue that the injunction should be stayed because it could interfere with the government’s ability to continue to work with social media companies to censor political speech. fundamental of Americans based on the point of view. In other words, the government is asking for a stay of the injunction so that it can continue to violate the First Amendment.

In his request to have the 5th Circuit grant a stay, attorneys for the administration said there was no evidence of threats from the administration. “The district court identified no evidence to suggest a threat accompanied any request to remove content. Indeed, the order denying the stay — presumably highlighting the ostensibly strongest evidence — referred to “a series of statements in the public media,’” the administration said.

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