Key players in a major free speech lawsuit asked a federal appeals court Monday to uphold a lower court injunction barring the federal government from communicating with social media companies for the purposes of censoring protected speech.
The New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), which represents three doctors and an activist censored for their views on COVID-19 treatments and policies, and Republican Attorneys General Andrew Bailey of Missouri and Jeff Landry of Louisiana, who brought the initial lawsuit, filed a brief asking the Fifth Circuit to uphold Judge Terry Doughty’s July 4 preliminary injunction. Doughty issued the injunction after finding “evidence of a massive effort by Defendants, from the White House to federal agencies, to suppress speech based on its content.”
“This injunction put a stop to an egregious campaign, lasting over five years, during which senior federal officials—using coercion, threats, deception, pressure, and collusion—insinuated themselves into the content-moderation decisions of social-media platforms to silence disfavored viewpoints,” the brief states. “This campaign of federal censorship was so effective that it fundamentally distorted online discourse in America on great social and political questions, rendering entire viewpoints virtually unspeakable on social media.”
The Fifth Circuit temporarily paused Doughty’s injunction on July 14 “until further orders” of the court.
“The government’s unconstitutional censorship regime stifled scientific debate on topics of critical importance during the Covid era, including lockdowns, school closures, mandates, and the origins of the virus,” NCLA litigation counsel Jenin Younes said in a statement. “This stifling in turn led to the adoption of policies that years later have proven more harmful than beneficial. Yet the Biden Administration wants to continue to use its clout to silence dissenters with impunity.”
A group of attorneys general, led by Democratic New York Attorney General Letitia James, asked the Fifth Circuit on July 31 to strike down the injunction, citing their states’ interest in protecting residents from the “spread of harmful content.”
Oral arguments for Missouri v. Biden will be held August 10, according to NCLA.
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