Earlier this month, a federal appeals court panel largely upheld a lower court's ruling that barred President Joe Biden's White House and other elements of his administration from contacting social media platforms for the purpose of directing or encouraging them to censor the content and free speech of users.
One user who found himself among those censored at the behest of the federal government, Stanford University professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, is now speaking out about how he was censored and silenced with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Breitbart.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has scrambled to the Supreme Court with plans to further appeal the ruling from the Fifth Circuit and request that the block imposed against it by the lower courts be lifted.
Dr. Bhattacharya was one of the several co-authors of the Great Barrington Declaration in 2020 that raised legitimate and serious concerns and questions about how governments were responding to the pandemic and in particular opposed the widespread lockdown orders and other restrictions that were imposed.
The New York Post reported that emails from the time now show that Bhattacharya and the others drew the ire of federal public health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Francis Collins, and it wasn't long before Bhattacharya and others who questioned the government's pandemic response policies found themselves all but completely silenced on social media.
"We were just acting as scientists, but almost immediately we were censored," Bhattacharya told the Post. "Google de-boosted us. Our Facebook page was removed. It was just a crazy time."
"The kinds of things that the federal government was telling social media companies to censor included us -- along with millions of other posts from countless other people who were criticizing government COVID policy," he continued.
"The government had a vast censorship enterprise," the professor added. "It was systematically used to threaten and coerce and jawbone and tell all these social media companies, 'You better listen to us: Censor these people, censor these ideas, or else.'"
According to Breitbart, a federal district judge in Louisiana ruled on July 4 that the Biden administration had "engaged in a years-long pressure campaign [on social media outlets] designed to ensure that the censorship aligned with the government’s preferred viewpoints" as well as that "the platforms, in capitulation to state-sponsored pressure, changed their moderation policies."
"I was just absolutely thrilled, especially to have it on July 4th," Bhattacharya told the Post. "I think that judge was sending a message by issuing this ruling on July 4th that we’re going to restore free speech in this country."
That ruling, which broadly blocked vast swathes of the government from making any contact with social media platforms, was appealed to the Fifth Circuit, but a three-judge panel largely upheld the lower court's determination that the "White House, surgeon general, CDC and FBI 'likely violated the First Amendment'" in pressuring platforms to censor certain users and topics and further found that they "likely coerced or significantly encouraged social-media platforms to moderate content" by vaguely threatening punishment or retaliation.
Now, according to SCOTUSblog, the Biden administration has taken the fight to the Supreme Court to request an emergency temporary block of the lower courts' rulings while it prepares a more formal petition for appeal.
Likely in the interest of fair due process, Justice Samuel Alito, who has oversight of the Fifth Circuit, did agree to temporarily block the lower court's orders until the end of this week.
However, it seems rather unlikely that the Supreme Court will actually overrule the Fifth Circuit panel, per the Post, and the administration will likely remain barred from attempting to coerce private social media platforms from engaging in the sort of censorship that the government itself is prohibited from doing by virtue of the First Amendment.