Judicial panel issues pause on ruling limiting Biden communications with social media firms

A three-judge appeals court panel on Friday issued a brief pause of a lower court ruling that limited the Biden administration’s communication with social media companies over free speech concerns.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel issued an administrative stay that takes effect until further notice.

A separate panel will later consider the Justice Department’s motion to issue a longer pause that would run through the administration’s appeal.

U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty, a Trump appointee in Louisiana, had blocked certain Biden administration agencies’ communications with social media companies, ruling in favor of two Republican states attorney general who argued the officials’ communications violated protected speech.

Biden administration officials were ordered not to contact social media companies regarding “the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech posted on social media platforms.” 

The decision was a blow to the administration’s efforts to combat disinformation, which the attorneys general claimed constituted a “campaign of censorship” against protected right-leaning speech. 

Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Justice, the State Department and the FBI were affected by the ruling. 

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last week that the administration disagreed with the court’s decision. 

Lawyers led by Brian Boynton, principal deputy assistant attorney general, argued in the DOJ’s request to stay the order that the decision’s “broad scope and ambiguous terms” were stopping the government from engaging in a “vast range” of lawful conduct.  

Doughty denied the administration’s request for a pause, so it then brought its request to the 5th Circuit. 

The three-judge panel, two Democratic appointees and one Republican appointee, on Friday also expedited the Biden administration’s full appeal.

This story was updated at 4:04 p.m.


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