Federal Appeals Court Orders the Feds to Stop Censoring Online Content

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United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sided with a coalition of social media users and the states of Missouri and Louisiana in a David versus Goliath battle for the First Amendment.

Filed on October 3, 2023, the ruling showcased a covert web of interactions, a secret alliance if you will, between government officials and the titans of social media, all meticulously crafted to censor content and stifle free speech across the digital landscape of America.

And the question on everyone’s lips: just how deep does this rabbit hole of suppression go?

The plaintiffs, a diverse group of epidemiologists, a healthcare activist, a psychiatrist, a news website owner, and yes, entire states, laid bare allegations that federal officials have been whispering in the ears of almost every major American social media company.

Their agenda?

To control the narrative and halt the spread of what they dub “misinformation” on their platforms, a practice that has been secretly unfolding for years, tracing back to at least the 2020 presidential transition, and continues to this day.

And here’s where the plot thickens.

These officials, hailing from the esteemed halls of the White House, the CDC, the FBI, and other bureaucratic behemoths, have not merely suggested but URGED social media platforms to scrub content and accounts that didn’t get the government’s stamp of approval.

And lo and behold, the platforms, in a display of astonishing compliance, largely acquiesced to these demands.

Now, this lawsuit.

It peels back the layers, revealing that platforms didn’t just stop at content removal.

Oh no, they handed officials the keys to expedited reporting systems, they downgraded or outright removed flagged posts, they deplatformed users, and they tweaked their internal policies to ensnare more flagged content in their nets.

And as if to put a cherry on top of this censorship sundae, they diligently sent reports of their moderation activities back to the officials. A little ‘thank you’ note for their directives, perhaps?

And now, enter the plaintiffs who felt the sting of their posts and stories being erased or buried by the platforms, and they’re pointing a firm finger at government officials, labeling them the puppet masters orchestrating this symphony of censorship.

They argue that these officials have been coercing, threatening, and pressuring social media platforms into silencing them through hushed communications and looming legal threats.

But the platforms didn’t just stop at removing content flagged by the officials.

Oh no, they went a step further, altering their moderation policies to dance to the tunes played by the officials, even when the content did not violate existing platform policies. A little extra mile in allegiance to the puppet masters, perhaps?

But wait, the officials, they had their defense ready.

They claim their actions were merely a noble quest to shield the public from the perils of online misinformation by spotlighting content that breached the platforms’ policies. They wrap their actions in the cloak of ‘permissible government speech.’ A guardian act to protect the masses, they say.

In a move that might just restore a smidgen of your faith in the judicial system, the district court sided with the plaintiffs.

They granted preliminary injunctive relief and put a leash on several federal offices, including the power corridors of the White House, the Surgeon General, the CDC, the FBI, and a slew of other alphabet agencies like NIAID and CISA, not forgetting the Department of State.

So, here we stand, gazing upon a narrative that intertwines power, censorship, and a battle for the very essence of free speech in our digital age. It’s a tale that’s unfolding, revealing its chapters in courtrooms and on the screens of every device across our great nation.

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