Attorney General Bonta to U.S. Supreme Court: Federal Government Communication with Social Media Companies Helps Protect the Public Online

Tuesday, December 26, 2023
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Joins 23 attorneys general in brief to Supreme Court to overturn appellate court decision prohibiting federal government from communicating with social media companies 

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today, alongside a coalition of 23 attorneys general, joined a multistate amicus brief in Murthy v. Missouri supporting the right of the federal government to communicate with social media companies about matters of public concern. The brief, filed in the U.S. Supreme Court, supports the federal government petitioners in seeking reversal of the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Missouri v. Biden, which affirmed a sweeping injunction that prohibits petitioners from communicating with social media platforms about content moderation. If upheld, the decision could chill the ability of government agencies to engage productively with the private sector to protect the public online.

“Social media is a daily source for news and information across the country,” said Attorney General Bonta. “The Fifth Circuit’s decision which blocks virtually any outreach to social media platforms about content moderation by numerous federal government agencies and officials is extraordinarily sweeping and threatens efforts to address threats to public health and safety."

For decades, states and social-media companies have engaged in important dialogues about safeguarding the well-being of the public from online dangers and threats. The coalition’s experience confirms that maintaining open lines of communication between the government and social-media companies on topics such as extremist violence, child safety, and consumer protection is mutually beneficial, furthers the public interest, and fully comports with the First Amendment. In the brief, the attorneys general argue that the Fifth Circuit’s decision wrongfully treats the exchange of information about harms and best practices as inherently coercive, and dangerously restricts the government from addressing threats to public safety.

In their amicus brief, the attorneys general argue that the Fifth Circuit’s decision: 

  • Fails to properly distinguish between impermissible efforts to coerce and permissible efforts to persuade when evaluating the federal government’s interactions with social media companies.
  • Is inconsistent with states’ experience engaging collaboratively with social-media companies to address potentially harmful content on their platforms. 

In filing the amicus brief, Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of New York, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, And Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

A copy of the amicus brief is available here.

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