A number of disease epidemiologists and co-authors of The Great Barrington Declaration ("GBD") – a declaration that criticized lockdown policies and raised concern about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of lockdowns – filed suit against the Biden Administration alleging that, shortly after being published, the GBD was censored on social media by Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media on account of government officials’ communications with such platforms.
Namely, they claimed that by using emails, public and private messages, public and private meetings, and other means, the Defendants had "significantly encouraged" and "coerced" the above social-media platforms to suppress protected free speech posted thereby. The suit was also joined by the States of Louisiana and Missouri which argued that, by their actions, the Biden administration had breached their sovereign interest in protecting their own constitutions and in ensuring their citizen's fundamental rights are not subverted by the federal government.
By judgment of 4 July 2023, the Fifth Circuit Court upheld the plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction, stating that the latter were likely to succeed on the merits of their claims. The Court highlighted that “Defendants used meetings and communications with social-media companies to pressure those companies to take down, reduce, and suppress the free speech of American citizens. They flagged posts and provided information on the type of posts they wanted suppressed. They also followed up with directives to the social-media companies to provide them with information as to action the company had taken with regard to the flagged post” and found that this pressure by Defendants had the intended result of “suppressing millions of protected free speech postings by American citizens”. The Court also held that, since the alleged suppression had potentially resulted in millions of free speech violations, plaintiffs rights outweighed the interest of Defendants in being able to report misinformation and warn social-media companies of foreign actors' misinformation campaigns.
With its judgment, the Court enjoined and restrained Defendants from taking a number of actions against social media companies, including, for example, that of “meeting 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 platform”.
Reference: Missouri v. Biden, Fifth Circuit Court, 4 July 2023.