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INJUNCTION LIFTED: Biden admin can talk to Twitter & Facebook now

INJUNCTION LIFTED: Biden admin can talk to Twitter & Facebook now

INJUNCTION LIFTED: Biden admin can talk to Twitter & Facebook now

In a ruling with massive politico-social implications, the most conservative circuit in the country put a stay on an order barring the Biden administration from working with Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms.

This is the “free speech” argument we always hear about from the MAGAs, that the government shouldn’t be allowed to shut down speech on Facebook or Twitter, even though the government has never shut down any such speech.

The issue really arose during COVID. It should have risen during the 2016 campaign.

It was in both the social media companies’ and the government’s best interest to tamp down wildly irresponsible posts that contained false information that would — and we know this happened — lead to needless death.

The media companies could be sued (even though they are 99% shielded from suits arising from their platforms), and the government wanted to protect people.

The MAGAs said they were the victims because it was the MAGAs that primarily spread the lies about COVID.

They said that the government was controlling their speech.

The government did no such thing. The government made an agreement with Facebook and Twitter that it would help flag misinformation and send lists to the companies. Then the companies themselves evaluated the posts and took them down.

The government played no bigger role than a “concerned citizen.”

Yet MAGAs complained that the government was “spying on them.” (These are posts put on the biggest social media boards in the world.)

And yet there are dangers associated with such partnerships, as we saw when Trump got elected in 2016, primarily because Russians (and others) flooded Facebook with fake news sites (the origin of fake news.)

Twitter and Facebook may have gone a little overprotective going the other way in 2020 trying to ensure that Trump didn’t get a fair advantage.

The FBI got Twitter and Facebook to bury the Hunter Biden laptop story because – at the time – the story had “all the hallmarks of a Russian plant.

It is not like the Russians weren’t working to help Trump get elected before or after.

So, with that introduction, a conservative group filed suit a week ago seeking an injunction ordering the government (Biden administration) to cease all communication with social media companies.

Today, the 5th Circuit lifted the injunction. It is important to note that the merits of the case have not been decided. Only a temporary injunction has been lifted.

As CBS News reports:

“The Justice Department turned to the 5th Circuit for relief after it asked Doughy last week to halt his own order while it pursued an appeal. Doughty, appointed by former President Donald Trump, declined to do so, and in a 13-page ruling rejected the government’s assertions that his injunction swept too broadly and threatened to chill lawful conduct.”

“‘Although this Preliminary Injunction involves numerous agencies, it is not as broad as it appears,’ Doughty wrote. ‘It only prohibits something the Defendants have no legal right to do — contacting social media companies for the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner, the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech posted on social-media platforms.'”

One can see how this is difficult to do. And it’s only going to get worse with A.I.

If someone wants to write a story on Hunter Biden’s laptop containing a video of Joe Biden in bed with a 19-year-old woman, is it wrong for the FBI to step in and say, “No such video exists, and if it did, it would have all the hallmarks of a Russian intelligence operation”?

Turn it around, let’s say a former executive at Deutsche Bank came out and said that Trump’s money is basically laundered money from Russian oligarchs who made it running guns through Africa or some other terrible means — but let’s say it’s true.

Wouldn’t we want to know in that situation?

But what if Trump had control of the FBI and told the FBI to suppress it?

These are questions that are not nearly as easy as the judge made them sound.

Yes, we have a protected right to free speech. But we don’t have the right to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, and that would seem to cover the same basic principles behind saying, “The vaccine has a microchip that follows you for three years then kills you.”

The other thing the judge really misses is that the government cannot tell these companies to take posts down. They can only make suggestions based on policies. We all saw what happened with Facebook took no action in 2016.

And, whether they like it or not, there is a reason that conservatives are the ones pushing for this order, and it’s not just because Biden is the president right now.

It is simply a reality that conservatives believe what they’re told to believe in their echo chamber.

In a defamation suit, Tucker Carlson used the defense that “No reasonable person could have believed what he was saying anyway.”

Conservative politicians want the ability to lie. It is that simple. Not only that, but you’ve seen how “close” some conservatives have become with Russia — which governs by propaganda. (Not all conservatives, let’s be fair, McConnell, Cornyn, Graham, and even Rubio have all marked Russia as the real enemy)

Conservatives are also pulling away from democracy. Trump calls 2024 “The Final Battle,” conservatives are far too likely to want to put up controversial topics that are simply not true.

That is why they filed in front of a very conservative judge in the single most conservative circuit. For now, the injunction is lifted, but the real fight is yet to come.

This column is based on original reporting by Melissa Quinn of CBS News.

I can be reached at jasonmiciak@gmail.com and on Twitter @JasonMiciak

Editor’s Note: This is an opinion piece reflecting the opinion of the author alone

Jason Miciak
Jason Miciak is an associate editor and opinion writer for Occupy Democrats. He's a Canadian-American who grew up in the Pacific Northwest. He is a trained attorney, but for the last five years, he's devoted his time to writing political news and analysis. He enjoys life on the Gulf Coast as a single dad to a 15-year-old daughter. Hobbies include flower pots, cooking, and doing what his daughter tells him they're doing. Sign up to get all of my posts by email right here:

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