The administration was found to have exerted undue pressure on social media platforms to censor posts related to COVID-19 and the elections.
The three-judge panel concluded that the administration had employed "intimidating messages and threats of adverse consequences” to manipulate the content moderation decisions of these companies. The decision stated, "It is true that the officials have an interest in engaging with social media companies, including on issues such as misinformation and election interference. But the government is not permitted to advance these interests to the extent that it engages in viewpoint suppression."
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, in a post on X, celebrated the ruling, stating, "The First Amendment remains intact." He further elaborated, "The first brick was laid in the wall of separation between tech and state on July 4th, and this ruling is yet another brick. Missouri will continue to lead the way in the fight to defend our most fundamental freedoms."
Echoing Bailey's sentiments, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry told USA TODAY, "This is a significant victory for the American people." He added, "And it confirms what we have said from the very beginning: the federal government is not permitted to engage in viewpoint suppression, no matter your political ideology."
In response to the ruling, the White House issued a statement saying, "DOJ is reviewing the court’s decision and will evaluate its options in this case." The statement further clarified, "This administration has promoted responsible actions to protect public health, safety, and security when confronted by challenges like a deadly pandemic and foreign attacks on our elections."
The statement also emphasized the administration's belief that "social media platforms have a critical responsibility to take account of the effects their platforms are having on the American people, but make independent choices about the information they present."
The lawsuit was initiated by then-Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, Louisiana's AG, and five private plaintiffs earlier this year. The suit was based on email exchanges between the White House's former director of digital media, Rob Flaherty, and social media companies. The exchanges allegedly demonstrated that the companies had implemented COVID-19 censorship policies due to "relentless, coercive pressure from the White House—not voluntarily."
U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty, in his July 4 ruling on Missouri v. Biden, commented that "the United States Government seems to have assumed a role similar to an Orwellian 'Ministry of Truth'."
The Missouri v. Biden case details corroborated information disclosed in The Twitter files. These files revealed that government agencies, including the FBI, had been in covert communication with the tech platform for several years, discussing the censorship of what they deemed to be "misinformation" from the platform.