Appeals court slaps Biden administration for contact with social media companies

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld an injunction limiting the Biden administration’s communication with social media firms to counter misinformation, potentially impairing efforts to combat misleading information about elections and public health.

Injunction Decision: GOP-appointed judges noted the administration’s efforts to flag misleading content as likely violating the First Amendment.
* The court found that the Biden administration put pressure on social media companies to suppress content it disapproved of, affecting all social media users.
* Despite this, the injunction only applies to the White House, the surgeon general, the CDC, and the FBI, not other departments and agencies.

Background: The preliminary injunction came about following a lawsuit against the Biden administration by the Republican AGs of Missouri and Louisiana.
* The AGs alleged that the government was illegally collaborating with social media companies to suppress free speech by encouraging the suppression of posts contributing to vaccine hesitancy and other contentious issues.

Dispute’s Origins: The lawsuit is rooted in ongoing Republican allegations that social media companies censor conservative views.
* The issue has risen in prominence as social media platforms move away from aggressive content moderation used to combat efforts to manipulate American voters and disinformation around the COVID-19 pandemic.

Injunction Impact: The initial injunction by District Court Judge Terry Doughty had significant implications.
* It inhibited several federal departments and specific officials from notifying platforms about posts that may violate their rules or requesting details on content moderation initiatives, with exceptions for posts involving criminal activity, national security threats, and foreign interference in elections.

Administration’s Defense: Biden administration lawyers claimed the injunction was overly broad, and could hinder key government efforts to address public welfare threats.
* The Biden administration has frequently criticized tech firms for insufficiently combatting misleading claims about public health and elections, while insisting it does not instruct social media companies on what to remove or how to manage their policies.

View original article on NPR

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