A recent ruling by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals indicated that the Biden administration’s attempts to limit speech during the pandemic era might have infringed on First Amendment rights.
On Friday, the court determined that actions by entities such as the White House, Surgeon General, CDC, and the FBI seemed to improperly influence speech.
The panel of three judges stated, “The actions of the White House, in partnership with the Surgeon General, appeared to unduly influence platform moderation… and had a significant impact on their decisions.”
The judges also noted, “There’s evidence suggesting that the FBI might have pressured these platforms to alter content, by pushing for changes in their content policies, in a way that potentially breaches the First Amendment.”
This decision revises an earlier court order which barred a broad set of government officials from pressuring social media companies to remove or restrict content. While the appellate court concurred with many aspects of the original ruling, it narrowed the directive, focusing on the entities it deemed responsible: the White House, Surgeon General, CDC, and FBI.
Previously, the Fifth Circuit had momentarily put a hold on the initial order, which was given by Judge Terry A. Doughty from the federal District Court in Western Louisiana.
Both Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey and former Attorney General, now U.S. Senator, Eric Schmitt celebrated the ruling once it was made public.
Schmitt declared, “Missouri v. Biden represents yet another significant win for freedom of speech. The federal government is once again restrained from partnering with online giants to curtail online speech.”
A representative from the White House shared with The Washington Post that they were looking into the ruling and considering next steps. They emphasized that while social media companies should be aware of their platform’s influence, they should also be autonomous in the content they choose to showcase.
If appealed, this issue might come before the Supreme Court, which already has plans to discuss lower court verdicts concerning social media regulations later this year.