Naturally, the government has appealed the decision to the Fifth Circuit and has asked the trial court to grant a stay of the injunction pending that appeal.
Judge Doughty rejected the petition to stay this week. The judge further explained the meaning of “protected free speech,” which was included in the Memorandum that was attached to the order.
The 13-page Memorandum that accompanied the decision states:
Judge Doughty reiterates his belief that the plaintiffs have a good chance to win on the grounds of their case at the outset of the Memorandum. He provides instances of activities made by each group of defendants that show why they are unlikely to prevail on the merits in order to emphasize this point.
Judge Doughty goes on to explain his reasoning for concluding that the plaintiffs have standing to file the lawsuit in further detail. Then, in response to the government’s claim that it will sustain irreparable harm without the stay, he makes the following observation:
“Defendants contend that the injunction may be interpreted to prohibit the Defendants from engaging in a wide variety of lawful conduct, such as speaking on issues of public concern and collaborating with social media firms on projects to avert serious harm to the American people as well as our democratic processes. The Preliminary Injunction, on the other hand, merely forbids what the Defendants are not permitted to do—urging, encouraging, pressing, or otherwise inducing the removal, deletion, suppression, or diminution of information on social media platforms that contain protected free expression. The defendants make no justification for why they have the right to operate in this way lawfully. The defendants are requesting relief from a preliminary injunction that solely prohibits unlawful activity. In other words, the sole result of prolonging the preliminary injunction would be to give the defendants more freedom to persuade social media sites to remove, delete, conceal, or reduce information that contains protected free expression.”
Judge Doughty’s conclusion encapsulates his justification:
“Plaintiffs will most likely show that every one of the enjoined Defendants forced, drastically encouraged, and/or jointly engaged social media firms to suppress postings to social media from American citizens that expressed views that were opposed to COVID-19 vaccinations, anti-COVID-19 lockdowns, and restrictions, posts that undermined or questioned the outcome of the 2020 election, as well as other content not subject to any possible exception to the First Amendment,” the lawsuit states. These texts appear to have been censored despite being protected as expressions of free speech due to the opinions they conveyed. Discrimination based on viewpoint is closely scrutinized.”
“This tale is far from finished since it’s likely that the government will now ask the Fifth Circuit for a stay while the appeal is underway.”