State should stay out of social media – Orange County Register

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California should be the first state defending the right to free speech on the internet. Instead, Attorney General Rob Bonta is leading a group of 23 state attorneys general in backing the manipulation of social media content by the federal government.

The case is Murthy v. Missouri. Vivek K. Murthy is the U.S. surgeon general. The case was brought by the office of Missouri’s attorney general, currently Andrew Bailey. This case arose after Elon Musk bought Twitter, now called X, in 2022 and began releasing the Twitter Files to journalists Matt Taibbi, Bari Weiss, David Zweig, Michael Shellenberger and others.

As Zweig reported in December 2022, summarizing released content, the files “focused on evidence of Twitter’s secret blacklists” and “how the company functioned as a kind of subsidiary of the FBI.” The government also “pressured Twitter and other social media platforms to elevate certain content and suppress other content about Covid-19.” Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other companies also attended the censorship meetings.

The lawsuit’s language contended the federal government worked with social media companies “to censor and suppress free speech, including truthful information, related to COVID-19, election integrity, and other topics, under the guise of combating ‘misinformation.’” Last year Judge Terry A. Dougherty largely sided with the lawsuit. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld much but not all of his decision. The U.S. Supreme Court stayed that order, pending its own review this year.

Whatever one thinks of the government’s actions during COVID-19, a free society allows its citizens to make up their own minds. The Twitter files clearly show actions by both the Trump and Biden administrations to coerce social media into manipulating public opinion.

Yet the Dec. 26 brief by Bonta and the other attorneys general contended the Fifth Circuit’s decision “treats virtually any governmental communication aimed at persuading or helping social-media platforms to remove harmful content, protect vulnerable users, or address threats to public safety as inherently coercive and therefore unconstitutional.”

But free people themselves, not government, decide what is “harmful content.” Government defining who are “vulnerable users” is an open invitation to censorship. And existing law already protects “public safety,” such as outlawing death threats.

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