An obscure litigation has gained widespread attention after a federal court barred the Biden administration from contacting social media firms about specific content. In a preliminary injunction, US District Judge Terry Doughty (Louisiana) compelled multiple government agencies and over a dozen top officials to refrain from contacting social media firms about removing “content containing protected free speech” uploaded on the sites.
The injunction was issued as part of a lawsuit filed in 2022 by attorneys general from Missouri and Louisiana, who accused the Biden administration of trying to stifle conservative speech by forcing private social media businesses to curb the spread of false information regarding Covid-19.
Legal experts have criticized the decree for being too broad, and experts on internet disinformation have cautioned that it might hinder the government’s attempts to combat fake news during times of national emergency or elections.
An official from the White House defended the government’s efforts to battle internet disinformation, saying that it has advocated appropriate steps to safeguard public health, safety, and security in the face of threats like a fatal epidemic and foreign attacks on our elections.
Expert on internet disinformation Ethan Porter said the verdict will have long-term ramifications. In the future, he said, governments could be more reticent to work with social media firms in the event of the following global epidemic. According to experts, the preliminary injunction is comprehensive and poses unique legal concerns, ripe for an appeal by the DOJ to the 5th US Circuit Court of appellate, often considered the most conservative appellate court in the country.
Twitter, Facebook/Meta, WhatsApp, YouTube/Google, WeChat, Instagram, and TikTok are all covered by the order, as are other social media platforms. Over a dozen other high-ranking government employees, including White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, are also subject to the directive.