April 18, 2024

US Supreme Court Reviews Government Meddling In Content Moderation on Social Media

The US Supreme Court is set to scrutinize the role played by the US government in moderating content on social media platforms and determine whether government meddling violated the right to free speech.

US Supreme Court judges are set to hear arguments in an appeal made to a preliminary injunction by a lower court limited how the White House and other federal officials interacted with social media platforms.

The hearing stems from a lawsuit filed by Louisiana, Missouri, and a few social media users against the US government. The lawsuit claims that the government failed to uphold the right to free speech outlined in the First Amendment by removing posts from popular platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and X (formerly Twitter).

Government Role in Content Moderation Under Scrutiny

It is not the first time that the US government has been under scrutiny for the role it has played in the past in coercing social media platforms to remove some posts. In February, another case was before the US courts to determine whether new legislation in Florida and Texas restricting content moderation on social media platforms should be upheld.

A majority of these cases have been filed by Republicans. These plaintiffs have argued that content moderation laws on these platforms tend to undermine the opinion of conservatives while promoting liberal voices.

However, the Biden administration believes that content moderation is key to preventing online misinformation. During the COVID pandemic, several conservative posts were taken down, with the Biden government arguing such posts led to preventable deaths. The administration alerted platforms on posts that violated their guidelines.

There have been concerns over the role of social media in spreading misinformation. After Elon Musk purchased X, it stirred a debate over whether the platform would continue moderating content as the previous management did.

Musk, who has been a champion of free speech, reinstated accounts previously banned because of misinformation including the account of former US President, Donald Trump.

Government Accused of Suppressing Conservative Voices on Social Media

The plaintiffs are accusing the government of misusing the content moderation policy to suppress conservative opinions. As such, they are accusing the government of coercion, which is prohibited under the First Amendment.

The lower court ruling made by US District Court Judge Terry Doughty agreed with the plaintiffs. She issued a preliminary injunction last year saying the plaintiffs had presented a solid argument.

Showing that the administration suppressed conservative voices during the pandemic and after the contentious 2020 US Presidential election.

The lawsuit has named several officials and government agencies such as the White House, FBI, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency as the defendants.

The lower court injunction, which is currently on hold as the Supreme Court reviews the case. Barred government officials from playing a role in moderating content on social media platforms.

Justice Department Makes A “Public Safety” Argument

The Justice Department is defending the actions taken by the government to moderate content, including calling for the deletion of certain posts. In its argument, the government claimed that government officials have often used public platforms to express their views and inform people of misinformation and issues that pose a danger to public safety.

The department also said social media platforms, which are owned by private entities, made independent decisions on moderating content. It also said that the government did not threaten these platforms to coerce them into taking action.

The department has argued that the injunction imposed by the lower court could limit the role played by the government in communicating matters that will safeguard national security.


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