Judge Tells White House To Cut Comms With Social Media Sites

Judge Tells White House To Cut Comms With Social Media Sites

A US federal judge has restricted White House officials and agencies from meeting and communicating with social media companies about content moderation.

Republican attorneys in Louisana and Missouri brought a lawsuit against the White House that alleged government officials went too far in encouraging social media platforms to moderate posts that might have contributed to vaccine hesitancy during the COVID pandemic and during election cycles.

As reported by the Washington Post, Judge Terry Doughty ruled that government agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services and the FBI would not be allowed to talk to social media platforms for “the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech” under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The White House has said the Justice Department was reviewing the order and will look at its available options.

The order also mentioned Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Jen Easterly, who heads the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, in its restrictions.

Content moderation around the topics has been a constant cause of consternation across Meta’s Facebook and Instagram platforms, as well as Alphabet-owned YouTube — particularly as it pertains to advertising dollars.

Earlier this year, Google launched a searchable database of adverts in order to combat misinformation and digital ad verification companies Integral Ad Science and DoubleVerify have been widely investing in tools to spot and report ads that appear along brand unsafe content whether on websites or social media platforms.

Twitter, meanwhile, which often found itself at the centre of the debate around content moderation during the Trump presidency — and ultimately removed the then president from the site following the January 6 attacks on the US Capitol — has undergone an about-face since Elon Musk acquired the site in its approach to content moderation.

However, with the new ruling from the US, the burden on social media platforms to remove misinformation and disinformation might be significantly reduced in the years to come.

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