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Statement on the preliminary injunction issued in Missouri v. Biden

Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty issued a preliminary injunction in Missouri v. Biden. The lawsuit, initiated last year by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana as well as several other individuals, claims that various government agencies and officials coerced or unlawfully pressured social media platforms into censoring constitutionally protected speech. 

In the ruling, Judge Doughty ordered a number of government agencies and officials to cease certain communications with social media platforms. The ruling states that government officials are still allowed to contact social media companies for other reasons, including informing the companies of posts involving illegal activity, identifying national security threats, and notifying companies of foreign attempts to influence elections. 

Below is FIRE’s statement on the preliminary injunction: 

The district court’s ruling in Missouri v. Biden rightly recognizes the serious threat government pressure tactics pose to free speech online. The record shows the government aggressively leaned on private social media companies to censor constitutionally protected speech. 

In its effort to suppress “misinformation” and other supposedly harmful posts, the government acted like a Ministry of Truth, pressuring platforms to throttle and take down even truthful information that contradicted official narratives. This censorship campaign should deeply concern all Americans, regardless of their political commitments or their views on masking, Hunter Biden, or the other topics singled out for censorship.

The judge’s order properly restrains the government from intruding into platforms’ editorial decisions, though it makes troubling exceptions for certain categories of content that could encompass protected speech. 

The federal government’s overreach under both the Trump and Biden administrations is a reminder of the need for legislation that requires governmental disclosure of its communications with social media companies. Without greater transparency, it is hard to envision the government not continuing to abuse its power behind the scenes.

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