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State Dept. cancels election meetings with Facebook after “free speech” ruling

Joe Biden walking outside the White House, wearing sunglasses and holding a stack of index cards in his right hand.

Enlarge / US President Joe Biden exits the White House before boarding Marine One on Thursday, July 6, 2023. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

The Biden administration is appealing a federal judge’s ruling that ordered the government to halt a wide range of communications with social media companies. President Biden and the other federal defendants in the case “hereby appeal” the ruling to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, according to a notice filed in US District Court yesterday. The US will submit a longer filing with arguments to the 5th Circuit appeals court.

On Tuesday, Judge Terry Doughty of US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana granted a preliminary injunction that prohibits White House officials and numerous federal agencies from communicating “with social-media companies for the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech posted on social-media platforms.”

Doughty found that defendants “significantly encouraged” and in some cases coerced “the social-media companies to such extent that the decision [to modify or suppress content] should be deemed to be the decisions of the Government.” The Biden administration has argued that its communications with tech companies are permissible under the First Amendment and vital to counter misinformation about elections, COVID-19, and vaccines.

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