But the could-be-end of government-Big Tech connivance and free speech suppression may be pre-empted as New York Attorney General (AG) Letitia James and 20 other attorneys general have filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The written submission urged a reversal of Doughty's decision to simply "allow President Joe Biden and his officials to continue to instruct social media companies on "impermissible content."
"Social media holds great promise but also carries great risks, especially when people use it to harass, scam, and spread misinformation," said James. "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."
The AGs added that states have taken actions similar to federal agencies and are backing the Biden administration in their appeal. "The Amici States, too, routinely engage with social-media companies on content moderation, including to exchange recommendations on best practices and to report specific content that violates the platforms' own terms and services," the brief read. Joining James in filing the amicus brief were AGs from 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.
Doughty had previously refused to dismiss the Missouri v. Biden, ruling that "censorship was encouraged perhaps even mandated by the Biden Administration and several key governmental departments." Republican attorneys general in Louisiana and Missouri sued the current regime on behalf of private individuals. The judge found they had "produced evidence of a massive effort by defendants, from the White House to federal agencies, to suppress speech based on its content." The Biden admin was quick to appeal the temporary block. They wrote that the "Government faces irreparable harm with each day the injunction remains in effect." Doughty rejected the request, but a three-judge panel for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans issued a ruling that effectively negated the temporary block. (Related: Judge DENIES Biden's motion to stay preliminary injunction on the FREE SPEECH case: "NO MORE COLLUDING with the SOCIAL MEDIA.")
More than 50 officials across a dozen agencies were involved, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Justice (DOJ), to name a few, as well as some of their top-management employees.
The temporary block did not prohibit all government correspondence with social media companies. It specifically disallowed meeting or contacting by phone, email, or text message or "engaging in any communication of any kind with social-media companies urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner for removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech," or flagging content for removal.
Meanwhile, James' brief seemed to be not connected to the July ruling. The AGs' brief cited cases like a 2022 Buffalo, New York, shooting where law enforcement was able to identify the shooter through Twitch videos and Discord posts, and how Twitter took down links to a livestream of the shooting after user reports. It also referred to a 2008 agreement where MySpace and Facebook agreed to adopt best practices to protect children from online predators. This resulted in Facebook later announcing it would stop the development of "Instagram Kids" pending input from parents, experts, and lawmakers.
But the injunction does not prevent such usage. It actually allows the agencies to continue to work with social media companies when it comes to posts about criminal activities, national security threats, or criminal efforts to affect elections.
Also, the appeal argued that the federal agencies actions were "recommendatory and non-coercive," but Doughty found that was not the case. He saw that the documents compiled reflected that the effort to pull down posts and deplatform users was constant. Messages revealed that federal employees wielded great power over social media companies, often responding to apologies and deference with even more demands.
A February 2021 exchange between the White House and Twitter, now rebranded as X by its owner tech mogul Elon Musk, detailed how Twitter had been so "bombarded" with requests from federal agents that it wanted to work out a more streamlined process to receive them.
Bookmark FirstAmendment.news to read more developments on the ongoing free speech suppression case against the Biden administration.