Appeals Court Rules Biden Officials Violated First Amendment In Social Media Censorship Case
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 11: White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during a press briefing at the White House on January 11, 2023 in Washington, DC. Jean-Pierre spoke on the classified documents found at a think tank office formerly used by President Joe Biden and the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images.

A federal appeals court has ruled that the Biden administration cannot coerce or “significantly encourage” social media companies to censor content, saying that previous actions of the administration had violated the First Amendment. 

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday partially upheld a lower court’s ruling in Missouri vs. Biden barring the FBI, the Centers for Disease Control, the White House, and the surgeon general from being able to pressure social media companies to take down or limit the scope of content the administration didn’t like. The court specifically ruled against a number of officials, including White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

“Defendants, and their employees and agents, shall take no actions, formal or informal, directly or indirectly, to coerce or significantly encourage social-media companies to remove, delete, suppress, or reduce, including through altering their algorithms, posted social-media content containing protected free speech,” the decision said. “That includes, but is not limited to, compelling the platforms to act, such as by intimating that some form of punishment will follow a failure to comply with any request, or supervising, directing, or otherwise meaningfully controlling the social-media companies’ decision-making process.”

Documents released by Congress last month show that a White House official asked Facebook to promote legacy outlets and stifle The Daily Wire’s reach in order to accomplish the administration’s directives on suppressing content that clashed with its COVID vaccine agenda. 

The ruling from the appeals court was not as expansive as the original ruling against the Biden administration from U.S. Judge Terry A. Doughty. Injunctions against the HHS, the Census Bureau, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency were not upheld. 

“If you were to change the algorithm so that people were more likely to see NYT, WSJ, any authoritative news source over Daily Wire, Tomi Lahren, polarizing people. You wouldn’t have a mechanism to check the material impact?” then White House Digital Director Rob Flaherty said in a meeting with Facebook in 2021. Flaherty was named as one of the defendants in the case who the injunction applied to.

The decision against the Biden administration, which was first sued by several states including Louisiana and Missouri. The states said in the lawsuit that the Biden administration’s actions were “the most egregious violations of the First Amendment in the history of the United States of America.”


The decision  was celebrated by Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey. “The First Amendment remains intact,” he posted on X. “The first brick was laid in the wall of separation between tech and state on July 4th, and this ruling is yet another brick.”

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said the decision was “a major win against censorship, totalitarianism, and Biden.”

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