Louisiana judge denies DOJ motion to stay order in social media case

A federal judge Monday denied the Justice Department’s request to stay an order limiting the Biden administration’s communication with social media companies over free speech concerns.

U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty, a Trump appointee in Louisiana, rejected the DOJ’s bid to stay an injunction while it works to appeal the decision barring talk between administration officials and social media companies.

Hours later, the Justice Department filed an emergency stay motion in the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, where the agency filed a notice of appeal regarding the order last week.

Lawyers — led by Brian Boynton, principal deputy assistant attorney general — wrote in a filing last week that the order’s “broad scope and ambiguous terms” prevent the government from engaging in a “vast range of lawful and responsible conduct.”  

The government’s initiatives with social media platforms prevent “grave harm” to the American people and the nation’s democratic processes, Boynton says in the filing.

The ruling came after two Republican attorneys general alleged that federal officials “coordinated and colluded” with social media platforms to target “disfavored speakers, viewpoints, and content.”

Doughty decided that administration officials cannot contact social media companies regarding “the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech posted on social media platforms.” 

The decision marked a blow to the Biden administration’s efforts to combat disinformation online.

Updated at 3:33 pm.

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