In the Courts

Dem AG Violated Court Order By Demanding To Know How Social Media Companies Are Censoring Content, Watchdog Says

Democratic Attorney General Letitia James of New York allegedly violated a court order by calling on top technology companies to censor content, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).

James sent letters to Rumble, Meta, TikTok, Google, Reddit and X — formerly Twitter — asking them how they plan to ensure that violent content does not proliferate on their platforms amid the Israel-Hamas War, according to her website. FIRE asserts that a February federal district court decision on a New York law precludes James from doing this and is demanding that she take back all the letters, according to the email it sent to the attorney general.

A federal district court judge blocked New York’s Assembly Bill A7865A, also known as the Online Hate Speech Law, on Feb. 14, 2023, according to a filing. The judge found that it “both compels social media networks to speak about the contours of hate speech and chills the constitutionally protected speech of social media users, without articulating a compelling governmental interest or ensuring that the law is narrowly tailored to that goal.”

“The October 12th letters ‘request’ information about the Investigated Platforms’ editorial policies, processes, and decisions for content that ‘may incite violence,’” FIRE asserts. “At a minimum and on their face, the letters plainly seek to allow the Office to ‘take proof and make determinations of fact’ under the Online Hate Speech Law.”

James’ letters focus on cracking down on the dissemination of terrorist and violent content on the platforms but “because these demands, compounded by their vague references to hateful or violent speech, are within the scope of the Online Hate Speech Law’s investigation provision, they violate the district court’s injunction,” FIRE adds.

James requested that the platforms detail how they have been suppressing content by Oct. 20. If James does not retract the letters by then, FIRE will sue to enforce the February injunction, it asserts.

“Our demand is that the New York AG immediately rescind the social media investigation letters because they violate the court’s injunction, order halting discovery, and the First Amendment,” FIRE Attorney Jay Diaz told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “In the long term, we hope the AG and other policymakers around the country will learn that they cannot use websites to censor by proxy.”

“Whether with social media or otherwise, too often, government officials try to achieve their policy goals using the blunt and ineffective tool of censorship,” Diaz added. “When they do, FIRE will continue to hold them accountable to the First Amendment.”

James’ press office did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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Jason Cohen

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