State attorneys general are asking a federal appeals court to reject a federal judge’s injunction barring federal officials from communicating with social media companies for the purposes of censoring protected speech.
The attorneys general, led by Democratic New York Attorney General Letitia James, say the judge’s injunction sets a “dangerous precedent,” citing their interest in protecting residents from the “spread of harmful content.” Western District of Louisiana Judge Terry A. Doughty issued his July 4 injunction, which the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarilystayed on July 14 while the appeal is pending, after finding “evidence of a massive effort by Defendants, from the White House to federal agencies, to suppress speech based on its content.”
“Given that seven out of ten Americans are social media users, who spend an average of over two hours on social media every day, amici States have a substantial interest in protecting their residents from the dangers to safety and health that the spread of harmful content on these platforms can sometimes pose,” the states’ amicus brief filed with the Fifth Circuit reads. “Critical to this interest is amici States’ ability to share information and engage in dialogue with social-media companies about potential health and safety hazards and other matters within the unique expertise of state governments.”
The states assert they have communicated with platforms to address content “ranging from extremist videos to election misinformation.”
— Katelynn Richardson (@katesrichardson) July 24, 2023
“Social media holds great promise but also carries great risks, especially when people use it to harass, scam, and spread misinformation,” James said in a statement. “An open dialogue between government officials and social media companies is critical to keeping Americans safe. The recent decision will not only stifle open debate and the free exchange of ideas, it will make the internet a more dangerous place for everyone.”
Documents obtained by Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry through the Missouri v. Biden lawsuit uncovered evidence of officials engaging in censorship activities with social media platforms, including Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) “switchboards” that allowed state and local election officials to flag misinformation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials flagging social-media posts for removal and the FBI planting false information intended to convince platforms to censor the Hunter Biden laptop story.
The Secretary of State of California, one of the states that joined the brief, was sued by an individual who was allegedly censored and later suspended by Twitter in February 2021 after California’s Office of Election Cybersecurity flagged his account for a post related to the 2020 election. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court in June.
The attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia joined New York in filing the brief.
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