Federal judge limits Biden officials’ contact with social media sites

Federal judge limits Biden officials' contact with social media sites

A federal court in Louisiana on Tuesday blocked parts of the Biden administration from communicating with social media platforms about a broad level of content online, a ruling that would deal with false and misleading stories about the coronavirus pandemic and other issues. Can reduce the efforts of

In rulingJudge Terry A. Doughty of the US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana said that parts of the government, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, cannot talk to social media companies for this purpose. solicit, encourage, coerce, or induce in any manner the removal, removal, suppression, or diminution of protected free speech material.

Judge Doughty granted the preliminary injunction, saying the agencies could not flag specific posts on the social media platforms or request reports about their efforts to remove the material. The ruling said the government could still notify platforms about posts detailing crimes, national security threats or foreign efforts to influence elections.

The decision, which could have significant implications for the First Amendment, was a major development in a fierce legal battle over the limits and limits of online speech.

Republicans accused the government of acting improperly with social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to censor critics, saying these platforms improperly remove right-leaning content. Democrats say the platforms have failed to adequately police misinformation and hate speech, which has led to dangerous consequences, including violence.

The courts are being forced to consider the issue – with the potential to overturn decades of legal norms that govern online speech.

The Republican attorneys general of Texas and Florida are defending first-of-its-kind state laws that bar internet platforms from removing certain political content, and legal experts believe the cases could eventually reach the Supreme Court. Are. The High Court earlier this year refused to limit the law that allows platforms to avoid legal liability for content users post on sites.

The lawsuit, brought by the attorneys general of Louisiana and Missouri, is likely to be appealed by the administration against Tuesday’s ruling, but the ramifications could be broader, preventing platforms from notifying government officials, including law enforcement agencies Could Disturbing content.

Government officials have argued that they do not have the authority to order the removal of posts or entire accounts, but have long cooperated with Big Tech to crack down on illegal or harmful content, particularly child sexual abuse. , in cases involving human trafficking and other criminal activities. It also includes regular meetings to share information on Islamic State and other terrorist groups.

The White House did not immediately provide comment. Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, declined to comment. Twitter had no comment, and Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Senator Eric Schmidt, a Missouri Republican and the first state attorney general, said on Twitter that the decision was “a victory for the First Amendment this Independence Day.”

The issue of government influence on social media has become increasingly partisan.

The Republican majority in the House has taken up the issue, pestering universities and think tanks that have studied the issue with tough requests for information and subpoenas.

Since acquiring Twitter last year, Elon Musk has advanced a similar argument, releasing internal company documents to selected journalists, detailing what he claimed were company and government officials. There was collusion. Although it is far from proven, some of the documents Mr. Musk disclosed ended up in the arguments of the lawsuit.

Defendants, social media companies, and experts who study disinformation have argued that there is no evidence of a systematic effort by the government to censor individuals in violation of the First Amendment.

At the same time, emails and text messages made public in the case in which Judge Doughty ruled have shown instances where officials complained to social media authorities when influential users spread misinformation, particularly related to the coronavirus pandemic. Connected.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed last year by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana, both Republicans, and four other individual plaintiffs: Jayant Bhattacharya and Martin Kuldorf, epidemiologists who questioned the government’s handling of the pandemic; Aaron Kheriati, a professor rejected by the University of California, Irvine, for refusing to offer coronavirus vaccinations; Jill Hines, director of Health Freedom Louisiana accused of slander, and Jim Hoft, founder of Gateway Pundit, a right-wing news site.

Although the lawsuit names President Biden and dozens of officials from 11 government agencies as defendants, some of the examples cited occurred during the Trump administration.

Judge Doughty, who was appointed in 2017 by President Donald J. Appointed by Trump to the Western District has made the court a sympathetic spot for conservative cases, he previously blocked the Biden administration’s national vaccination mandate for health care workers and overturned a ban on new federal Was. Leasing for oil and gas drilling.

He referred the plaintiff to the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, Anthony S. Fauci, who told attorneys for the plaintiffs that he was not involved in any discussions of censoring online content.

Judge Doughty indicated his skepticism toward that argument in March when he denied a motion to dismiss the case.

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