US judge restricts Biden administration’s communication with social media firms for content moderation.
Judge Terry Doughty prohibits White House officials and select government agencies from contacting firms about “content containing protected free speech” in a 155-page ruling on Tuesday.
Republicans claim victory as officials accused of censorship, while Democrats argue that platforms have not adequately addressed misinformation.
The closely-watched First Amendment case sparked a debate over the government’s role in moderating content deemed false or harmful.
The White House stated that the US Department of Justice is reviewing the ruling and determining its next course of action.
The White House emphasized in a statement that they maintain a consistent stance, stating that social media platforms have a significant responsibility to consider the impact their platforms have on the American people.
The statement further highlighted that platforms should have the autonomy to make independent decisions regarding the information they choose to present.
The ruling follows a lawsuit filed by Republican attorneys general from Missouri and Louisiana, who claimed that US officials had exerted pressure on social media platforms to address posts related to topics such as Covid-19 policies and election security.
Judge Terry Doughty, a former appointee of President Donald Trump, acknowledged the substantial evidence presented by the plaintiffs in support of their claims.
“In his ruling, Mr. Doughty described the evidence presented so far as portraying an almost dystopian scenario.”
He remarked, “Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, a time marked by prevailing skepticism and ambiguity, it appears that the United States Government has taken on a role reminiscent of George Orwell’s ‘Ministry of Truth’.”
The decision placed restrictions on the ability of government entities, such as the Department of Health and Human Services and the FBI, to engage in communications.
Additionally, it imposed limitations on US officials, including Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Jen Easterly, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, in their capacities.
Nevertheless, it included provisions that allowed for exceptions, permitting contact with companies to alert them regarding threats to national security and unlawful acts.
Judge Doughty also made mention of various email correspondences between White House officials and social media platforms.
This encompassed an email sent in April 2021 by Rob Flaherty, previously the director of digital strategy at the White House, addressed to employees at the prominent technology company, Google.
Within the email, Mr. Flaherty expressed his concern that Google’s video-sharing platform YouTube was directing individuals towards vaccine hesitancy, using the term “funneling.”
Source : bbc.com