Biden Appeals Social Media Court Ruling

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The Biden administration filed an appeal in a US court against a federal judge’s ruling that restricted certain agencies and officials from engaging in social media content moderation.

  • Judge Terry A. Doughty’s injunction prohibited government agencies from communicating with social media companies to influence the removal of protected speech content.
  • The appeal demonstrates the administration’s determination to challenge the communication restrictions and regain the ability to address misinformation through social media engagement.

On July 5th, the Biden administration filed an appeal in a US court against a federal judge’s ruling that imposed restrictions on certain agencies and officials from engaging in social media content moderation. The notice of appeal indicates the government’s intention to seek a review of the ruling.

The lawsuit, brought by Republican former Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Republican Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, alleged that government officials overstepped their bounds in pressuring social media companies to address posts that could contribute to vaccine hesitancy during the Covid-19 pandemic or disrupt elections.

The injunction issued by Judge Terry A. Doughty on Tuesday prohibited government agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the FBI, from engaging in social media content moderation, as the content is protected by the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. In fact, the ruling states that government agencies could not talk to social media companies for “the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.”

However, Judge Doughty’s order did make exceptions for certain types of communication between government officials and social media platforms (Facebook, YouTube, to name a few), such as those related to national security risks and criminal activity. Evelyn Douek, an assistant professor at Stanford Law School, told The Washington Post “The injunction is strikingly broad and clearly intended to chill any kind of contact between government actors and social media platforms.”

This ruling was seen as a victory for Republicans who filed the lawsuit, asserting that the Biden administration was exploiting the Covid-19 crisis and the threat of misinformation as a pretext to suppress dissenting views.

The Biden administration’s aim has been to combat misinformation surrounding Covid-19 vaccines in order to prevent unnecessary deaths. In response to concerns about the spread of false information, the administration sought to collaborate with the companies to address the social media content moderation. However, this initiative was met with legal challenges from Republican attorneys general, leading to the recent court ruling and subsequent appeal.

The appeal signifies the administration’s determination to contest the restrictions imposed on its communication with social media platforms. By pursuing this legal avenue, the Biden administration hopes to overturn the ruling and regain the ability to engage with social media companies to curb the dissemination of misinformation.

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