Sat. Sep 30th, 2023
Court Rules Biden Administration May Have Overstepped First Amendment in Social Media Censorship

In a recent decision, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stated that the Joe Biden administration may have violated the First Amendment by pressuring social media platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube, and Google, to remove content they deemed as misinformation. The court acknowledged that government agencies, including the White House, FBI, and CDC, had been in contact with major social media companies regarding the spread of misinformation.

According to the court, these platforms complied with government requests, granting expedited reporting systems, downgrading or removing flagged posts, and deplatforming users. The plaintiffs in the case included three doctors, a news website, a healthcare activist, and the states of Missouri and Louisiana. They argued that their freedom of speech was being suppressed by these social media platforms.

Government officials were found to have requested the removal of individual accounts and flagged content. Additionally, it was discovered that these agencies had been examining the platforms’ moderation policies in 2021. The decision specifically mentioned one instance in which a White House official demanded details about Facebook’s internal policies on twelve occasions.

The court emphasized that while officials have a legitimate interest in engaging with social media companies on issues like misinformation and election interference, the government must not engage in viewpoint suppression.

In another legal matter involving tech giants, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to present evidence against Google in an upcoming antitrust trial. The DOJ claims that Google negotiated agreements with mobile providers to establish itself as the default search engine, violating antitrust laws. However, the DOJ must demonstrate that these negotiations were unlawful for the lawsuit to proceed.

During a pretrial hearing, Judge Amit Mehta dismissed the DOJ’s claims, stating that users could still switch to other search engines. Matt Schruers, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which represents Big Tech companies, expressed opposition to the DOJ’s position, arguing that consumers have alternative search services like Bing and DuckDuckGo.

The DOJ initially sued Google in January, alleging violations of the Sherman Act by monopolizing the digital advertising space. The federal lawsuit received support from attorneys general in several states, including California, Colorado, and New York.

In other news, Tucows, an internet service provider, has appointed Lee Matheson, a partner at Edgepoint Wealth Management, and Gigi Sohn, a lawyer and telecom advocate, to its board of directors. Matheson’s firm is one of Tucows’ largest shareholders. Sohn, who stepped down as a nominee for an FCC commissioner, has extensive experience in broadband policy organizations. Brad Burnham, co-founder of Union Square Ventures, will be stepping down from Tucows’ board after serving since 2017.