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Yost joins court fight over social media free speech

By J.D. Davidson
The Center Square

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost joined a court fight this week with Missouri and Louisiana, which says the Biden administration is violating the First Amendment by censoring social media content.

Yost filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court that argues against ending a U.S. District Court injunction stopping federal officials from pressuring social media platforms into deleting user content that the Constitution protects.

“The federal government doesn’t get to play referee on the field of public discourse,” Yost said. “If you let them decide what speech is OK, one day yours might not be.”

Yost said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the White House closely monitored social media platforms, flagging accounts and posts with dissenting views for the platforms to delete. Officials also kept tabs on the platforms’ monitoring activities and pressured the companies to adopt permanent policy changes aligned with the federal government’s goals. 

He said the U.S. surgeon general and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took similar steps.

“The facts underlying this case reflect the federal government’s tendency to wield its power to target people and speech specially disfavored by those in power,” Yost wrote in his brief.

Missouri and Louisiana sued last year, arguing in Missouri v. Biden the federal government’s censorship of social media content violated the First Amendment.

As previously reported by The Center Square, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, ruling against the federal government earlier this month, upholding an injunction granted by a U.S. District Court in Louisiana.

Judge Terry Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana ruled in Louisiana and Missouri v. Biden et al., ordering an injunction to stop Biden officials from pressuring social media companies to remove content deemed "misinformation."

The federal appellate court backed that ruling, albeit more narrowly, pushing back on federal censorship by proxy.

"Social-media platforms' content-moderation decisions must be theirs and theirs alone," the court said.      

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