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Social media ban on Biden officials halted in appeal

A federal appeals court on Friday blocked a judge’s order that blocked most of the Biden administration’s actions From talking to social media sites about the content.

This case could have important First Amendment implications and could affect the conduct of social media companies and their cooperation with government agencies.

In its three-sentence order, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said a preliminary injunction issued this month by a federal judge in Louisiana would be set aside “until further order of the court.” The appeals court also called for expedited oral arguments in the case.

In the lawsuit, Missouri, Louisiana and five individuals said President Biden’s campaign, his administration and outside groups pressured social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube to remove content they objected to. That content included conservative claims about the coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 presidential election, and a story about Hunter Biden, the president’s son.

The plaintiffs won on July 4 when Judge Terry A. Doughty of the US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana found that they were likely to be able to prove that the Biden administration was attempting to silence speech on social media. Fitted to. Platform.

Judge Doughty wrote, “If the allegations made by Plaintiffs are true, the present case involves the largest attack against freedom of expression in the history of the United States.”

Judge Doughty, who was appointed in 2017 by President Donald J. Trump, said White House and administration officials had used private communications and public announcements to pressure the tech giant to remove content related to the pandemic and Covid vaccines.

The judge’s preliminary injunction barred several agencies — including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security — from urging the platforms to remove “protected free speech.” The order states that government agencies can still discuss material related to categories including criminal activity, threats to national security and foreign election interference.

Legal scholars have said that the blanket nature of the prohibition may make it difficult for the government to comply. The Justice Department appealed the order the day after it was issued.

The case comes amid a fierce partisan battle over online speech. Republicans have for years accused the Silicon Valley companies of disproportionately removing posts from the accounts of conservative publishers and celebrities. Democrats have said tech platforms are not taking down enough content, allowing false, hateful and violent messages to spread widely.

Republican lawmakers in Texas and Florida passed legislation in 2021 to block social media sites from removing certain political content.

The tech industry has challenged those laws on the basis of the First Amendment, which states that companies have the right to moderate their platforms as they wish. Many experts believe those legal challenges will eventually reach the Supreme Court.

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