A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on Thursday in the case of Missouri v. Biden, which essentially accuses the Biden administration of unconstitutionally coercing and colluding with social media platforms to censor on its behalf the free speech of users espousing opinions or sharing information they dislike or disagree with.
The hearing reportedly did not go particularly well for the Biden administration's attorney, as virtually all of his arguments were summarily knocked down or undermined by not just the opposing attorney but also the federal appellate judges themselves, according to the Daily Caller.
The administration has sought the lifting of an injunction imposed in July by a district court that specifically bars the federal government from communicating with social media platforms for the purpose of censorship, but such an outcome seems rather unlikely given how the proceeding reportedly played out.
The Daily Caller noted that the lawsuit was initially filed in May 2022 and is led by the attorneys general of Louisiana and Missouri, Jeff Landry and Andrew Bailey, respectively, and they won the injunction against the Biden administration's censorship efforts on July 4 thanks to Western District of Louisiana Judge Terry A. Doughty.
The administration appealed that ruling and the Fifth Circuit stepped in to issue a temporary stay on that injunction on July 14, pending the hearing on the matter that was held Thursday and "until further orders" are issued by the appeals court.
AG Landry told the outlet that the arguments put forward by the government's attorney, Daniel Tenny of the Justice Department, were "extremely weak, unfounded, or irrelevant."
"I think that the injunction that the judge issued, when you break it down, was simply a reinstatement of the First Amendment," Landry said. "The court is not saying the government cannot opine on issues that they think are mal-information, disinformation, and misinformation … They just can’t muzzle the opinion of Americans."
According to The Heartlander, one of the observers in the courtroom for the hearing was independent journalist Matt Taibi, who indirectly helped support the lawsuit by way of his Twitter Files series of threads that exposed the federal government's efforts to censor and silence information on social media on a range of topics from the COVID pandemic to election integrity, among many other things.
"More specifics in a bit, but I think it’s fair to say a very lively appellate hearing on the Missouri v. Biden injunction today did not go well for the federal defendants," Taibbi said in a post to X/Twitter. In a follow-up, he wrote, "Two of the judges interrogated the federal government’s attorney about the coercion of Internet platforms, comparing the situation to a mob racket. 'You’ve got a nice social media company there, sure would be a shame if something happened to it,' said one."
He further noted in another post that, in terms of the demands made by seemingly "irate officials" for requested actions to be taken, one of the judges compared it to the administration saying "Jump" and the social media platforms responding with "How high?"
Taibbi also observed in one tweet, "In the court gallery some of the assembled winced during the relentless questioning of the administration's lawyer, the way people do at boxing matches when someone walks into a head shot."
Also weighing in after the hearing with his own take on how things went was AG Bailey, who posted a lengthy thread of tweets and stated, "Today's oral argument in Missouri v. Biden proved what we've known all along: the Biden Administration has shamelessly and relentlessly coerced and colluded with social media platforms to censor free speech."
Among the more ridiculous and dishonest arguments put forward by the DOJ attorney that Bailey highlighted was the claim that censorship was now permissible in the post-COVID world, that no Americans were harmed or had their rights violated by the government-directed censorship, and that no actual threats were ever made against social media platforms -- despite ample documented evidence to the contrary.
"Today's hearing was further proof that Joe Biden has zero respect for the Constitution," Bailey concluded. "But Missouri is fighting back. He will not get away with this blatant First Amendment violation."