by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Biden administration will hope to secure its ability to contact social media firms. …
A federal judge blocked access between the White House and social media companies on July 4, ruling that they were collaborating to censor online speech. That move was later stayed, and the administration will hope to keep it that way following a hearing before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The sweeping injunction came in response to a lawsuit from Republican attorneys general in Missouri and Louisiana that alleged government officials and social media companies collaborated to suppress speech based on content.
It blocked dozens of officials, including press secretary Karine Jaen-Pierre and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, from speaking to a host of tech firms and noted that most of the speech that had been suppressed was conservative in nature.
While much of the alleged censorship dealt with pandemic-related issues of vaccine efficacy and the lab leak COVID-19 origin theory, the issue has broad implications for the role of government in regulating online speech.
The White House outlined its approach to the issue early in President Joe Biden’s tenure, when then-press secretary Jen Psaki said, “The president’s view is that the major platforms have a responsibility related to the health and safety of all Americans to stop amplifying untrustworthy content, disinformation, and misinformation, especially related to COVID-19 vaccinations and elections.”
At issue is how much of a role the government should play in directly convincing or coercing those platforms to remove content it deems unfavorable or inaccurate.
The 5th Circuit could reinstate the judge’s order, continue the stay or institute a narrower compromise between the two. Knight First Amendment Institute Director Jameel Jaffer pushed for the latter approach in a statement.