Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Key Joe Biden officials barred from contacting social media platforms

In a far-reaching ruling that has implications for other countries too, a judge in the US has barred key officials at the Joe Biden administration from contacting social media platforms about moderating posts and censoring conservative viewpoints protected by the First Amendment.

The ruling by judge Terry A. Doughty at US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana bars Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) leader Jen Easterly, and FBI Foreign Influence Task Force leader Laura Dehmlow, as well as employees of those agencies “from contacting, working with, or asking social media companies about posts protected by the First Amendment”.

The judge wrote that plaintiffs are likely to prove that federal government officials are targeting and suppressing “millions of protected free speech postings by American citizens”, reports The Verge.

“The explosion of social media platforms has resulted in unique free speech issues — this is especially true in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. If the allegations made by Plaintiffs are true, the present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history,” the ruling said.

“In their attempts to suppress alleged disinformation, the Federal government… is alleged to have blatantly ignored the First Amendment’s right to free speech,” it added.

A White House official told the media that “our consistent view remains that social media platforms have a critical responsibility to take account of the effects their platforms are having on the American people, but make independent choices about the information they present”.

The Justice Department was reviewing the ruling while evaluating its next steps.

According to reports, Republican attorneys general in Louisiana and Missouri sued President Joe Biden, Anthony Fauci, the CDC, DHS, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, claiming that “starting in 2017 — four years before Biden was President — officials within the government began laying the groundwork for a ‘systemic and systematic campaign’ to control speech on social media”.

The plaintiffs alleged that defendants “have colluded with and/or coerced social-media platforms to suppress disfavoured speakers, viewpoints, and content on social-media platforms”.

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