A federal judge ruled against the Biden administration’s efforts to dismiss a case involving online censorship Monday, saying that the states of Missouri and Louisiana had “plausibly alleged” First Amendment violations.
United States District Judge Terry A. Doughty of the Western District of Louisiana denied the Biden administration’s motion to dismiss a suit brought on May 5 by Republican Attorneys General Erik Schmitt of Missouri and Jeff Landry of Louisiana. Schmitt and Landry said the Biden administration colluded with social media companies to censor debate on multiple issues, including the 2020 presidential election and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged joint action, entwinement, and/or that specific features of Defendants’ actions combined to create state action,” Doughty wrote in the ruling.
“Plaintiffs have clearly and plausibly alleged that Defendants engaged in viewpoint discrimination and prior restraints. As discussed in great detail above, Plaintiffs allege a regime of censorship that targets specific viewpoints deemed mis-, dis-, or malinformation by federal officials,” Doughty added. “Because Plaintiffs allege that Defendants are targeting particular views taken by speakers on a specific subject, they have alleged a clear violation of the First Amendment, i.e., viewpoint discrimination. Moreover, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants, by placing bans, shadow-bans, and other forms of restrictions on Plaintiffs’ social-media accounts, are engaged in de facto prior restraints, another clear violation of the First Amendment.”
Documents posted on Twitter by Landry included an April 14, 2021, email from White House Director of Digital Strategy Rob Flaherty to an unidentified Facebook employee, demanding the company censor Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s video about vaccines. Carlson is a co-founder of the Daily Caller and Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Since we’ve been on the phone—the top post about vaccines today is [T]ucker Carlson saying they don’t work. Yesterday it was Tomi Lehren [sic] saying she won’t take one,” Flaherty wrote to the Facebook employee, according to the email released by Landry. “This is exactly why I want to know what ‘Reduction’ actually looks like—if ‘reduction’ means ‘pumping our most vaccine hesitant audience with [T]ucker Carlson saying it doesn’t work’ then … I’m not sure it’s reduction!”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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