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Information Influence

In a heated legal battle between two U.S. states and the Biden administration over accusations of the federal government pressuring social media companies into controlling information, the federal court system maneuvers determining the ruling on the supposed pressure the social media giants faced from the executive branch.

On Thursday, August 10, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from the Biden administration about reversing a previously issued order from a lower court that restricts the White House from asking or pressuring social media companies to remove content from their platforms. 

The three-judge panel for the Fifth Circuit Court appeared skeptical of the Biden administration’s argument to reverse the order which prohibits the government from pressuring social media platforms’ content. 

The Department of Justice, arguably being used as a tool for government overreach, argued the federal government never controlled information, but was simply preventing social media companies from spreading “misinformation,” which could be open to biased interpretation.

A lawyer from the Department of Justice, Daniel Tenny, provided a defensive statement in favor of the government’s actions: “U.S. officials never forced social media companies to remove posts about COVID-19, the 2020 election and other topics, as Louisiana and Missouri claimed in a lawsuit. Instead, he said, the government had informed the companies of certain posts that spread harmful misinformation,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

If only “harmful misinformation” possessed the same standards across the board and was not ripe for political influence. The Biden administration fails to understand the government should not have any say in what information is spread or not if no First Amendment violations are present from the companies themselves.

Contrary to the Justice Department’s defense, Elon Musk being the owner of Twitter, now called X, has produced and turned over multiple internal Twitter documents exposing the White House and other U.S. officials for coercive actions against social media giants.

Some pressuring threats made by the government include things like threatening social media companies with the removal of Section 230 and even going so far as to slap social media companies with antitrust lawsuits if they did not comply with governmental demands.

Circuit Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod summed up the exchanges between social media employees and U.S. government officials in emails and messages:

“‘What appears to be in the record are these irate messages from time to time from high-ranking government officials that say, “You didn’t do this yet,”’ according to The Federalist

The guilt-ridden messages of government officials seem to be in tandem with similar public threats made by many “leading Democrats…House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and multiple U.S. senators,” according to The Federalist.

Circuit Judge Don Willet sided with the states of Louisiana and Missouri against the executive branch: “Circuit Judge Don Willett said public statements by Biden officials suggesting that social media companies could face antitrust enforcement, or lose immunity from certain lawsuits under federal law, could be seen as threats,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

After the skepticism of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals against the Biden administration’s tyrannical defense, many are expecting the free speech case to reach the Supreme Court soon, provided there is an appeal, since the matter at hand in the case centers around one of the most sacred freedoms in the United States, the right to free speech, protected by the First Amendment.
“‘The government wants to be doing something that it shouldn’t be doing, and they really, really want to be doing it,’ said NCLA attorney John Vecchione in the discussion YouTube banned,” via The Federalist.

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