Biden administration says judge’s social media order could cause ‘grave harm’

A Louisiana-based federal judge’s order broadly limiting executive branch communications with social media companies could cause “grave harm” by preventing the government from “engaging in a vast range of lawful and responsible conduct,” Biden administration attorneys said in a motion filed Thursday with a federal appeals court.

The request to stay the order was the administration’s first substantive response to a July 4 ruling by U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty in Monroe.

Doughty, a conservative nominated to the federal bench by former President Donald Trump, issued an injunction Tuesday blocking multiple government agencies and administration officials from meeting with or contacting social media companies for the purpose of “encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.”

The order also prohibits the agencies and officials from pressuring social media companies “in any manner” to try to suppress posts, raising questions about what officials could even say in public forums.

Doughty’s order blocks the administration from taking such actions pending further arguments in his court in a lawsuit filed by Republican attorneys general in Missouri and Louisiana.

In their filing Thursday night with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, attorneys led by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton called the order “ambiguous.” They said it could prevent the Biden administration from “speaking on matters of public concern and working with social media companies on initiatives to prevent grave harm to the American people and our democratic processes.”

They said, “These immediate and ongoing harms to the Government outweigh any risk of injury to Plaintiffs if a stay is granted.”

Critics of the ruling say it could hamper attempts to squelch misinformation on topics including health and elections. Supporters of the order say it keeps the government from illegally censoring points of view.

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