Judge: US government may no longer have contact with social media companies

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A judge has largely banned a number of US government agencies from having contact with social media companies. The government may try to convince these companies to remove certain content.

The indictment alleges that members of the Biden administration conspired with Meta, Twitter and YouTube to remove “truthful information” on various topics, including Covid-19 and the US elections, writes The Washington Post. They would have asked social media companies, among other things, to remove content that encourages refusing vaccinations from their platforms. Although the judge has not yet made a final ruling, it does say that evidence has been provided that government authorities have attempted ‘massively’ to ‘suppress freedom of expression’.

That’s why the judge has already issued an order banning a significant part of the US government from contacting social media companies. This includes the Department of Health & Human Services, and the FBI. It also mentions a number of specific officials, such as Jen Easterly, head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. There are some exceptions. For example, warnings may still be issued about national security threats, criminal activity and voter suppression.

The case was brought by the Republican attorneys general in the US states of Louisiana and Missouri. They believed that the Biden administration convinced tech companies to remove “politically unfavorable views and speakers.” The judge was appointed by Trump.

A White House spokesperson told The Washington Post that it is reviewing the order and “evaluating its options.” The spokesperson said the government has encouraged “responsible actions” “to protect the health and safety of the public during challenges such as a deadly pandemic and attacks on our elections.” The White House says social media companies have an “important responsibility” to consider the effects they have on the public, but that they must also “make independent choices about the information they display.”

YouTube previously announced that it would relax its disinformation policy. For example, the platform removes fewer videos with disinformation about the American elections from the platform. Meta has decided last month to no longer remove incorrect information about the coronavirus from its platforms in most countries.

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