Online Content Moderation and Government Coercion [May 13, 2022]   [open pdf - 730KB]

From the Document: "In recent years, there has been growing concern about the power of social media companies to control online speech. Some users have tried to assert [hyperlink] that online platforms violated users' constitutional free speech rights by removing users' content or otherwise restricting their ability to post on these platforms. Lower courts have rejected [hyperlink] these claims, citing the well-established principle that private companies are not bound by the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause and therefore holding that the Constitution does not limit their ability to restrict user content. More recent lawsuits [hyperlink], however, have alleged that the government itself has been involved in restricting certain types of content, creating government encouragement or coercion that does implicate constitutional free speech concerns. One high-profile example is a group of lawsuits from former President Trump, initially filed almost a year ago, alleging that Facebook [hyperlink], Twitter [hyperlink], and YouTube [hyperlink] violated his First Amendment rights by banning him from their online platforms. He claimed that the companies were motivated to act based on fear of government regulation, implicating the First Amendment. On May 6, 2022, a trial court disagreed and dismissed his lawsuit against Twitter. (The other two suits remain pending.) While lawsuits bringing similar claims have largely been dismissed, they nonetheless illustrate an ongoing concern about government involvement in private content moderation. This Legal Sidebar explores this issue, explaining the relevant legal background and the significance of recent lawsuits."

Report Number:
CRS Legal Sidebar, LSB10742
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
Congressional Research Service: https://crsreports.congress.gov/
Media Type:
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