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Twitter Quits the Biden Administration's Ham-Handed Crusade Against COVID-19 'Misinformation'

Added 11-30-22 06:21:03pm EST - “Twitter's restrictions on COVID-19 commentary aligned with the Biden administration's alarmingly broad definition of "misinformation."” - Reason.com

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Posted By TheNewsCommenter: From Reason.com: “Twitter quits the Biden administration's ham-handed crusade against COVID-19 'misinformation'”. Below is an excerpt from the article.

Twitter recently announced that it will no longer enforce its ban on "COVID-19 misinformation," a fuzzily defined category that ranged from demonstrably false assertions of fact to arguably or verifiably true statements that were deemed "misleading" or contrary to "guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information." The change in policy, which users first noticed about a month after Elon Musk completed his acquisition of the company, is consistent with his avowed commitment to lighter moderation and more free-wheeling debate. But according to The Washington Post, "experts" are warning that "the move could have serious consequences in the midst of a still-deadly pandemic."

That fear has always been the justification for restricting what people can say about COVID-19 on social media, and it is by no means groundless. If false claims deter medically vulnerable people from getting vaccinated or encourage the use of ineffective and potentially dangerous treatments, for example, the consequences could indeed be serious. But policies like the one Musk has ditched present two intersecting problems: Misinformation is an inherently nebulous concept, and private efforts to suppress it on any given platform are strongly influenced by government pressure.

Legal restrictions on COVID-related speech that go beyond recognized exceptions such as fraud and defamation would be plainly unconstitutional. But government officials can achieve similar results by publicly and privately demanding that social media companies do more to curtail the spread of "misinformation."

Those demands involve not only more vigorous enforcement of existing rules but also expanded definitions of unacceptable speech. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have a strong incentive to comply with those "requests," given all the ways that dissatisfied officials can make life difficult for them through castigation, regulation, litigation, and legislation. The upshot, to the extent that companies adopt stricter moderation practices than they otherwise would, is censorship by proxy.

That is exactly what we are seeing, according to a First Amendment lawsuit that Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed last May. Discovery in that case has revealed emails showing how keen executives at social media companies were to placate federal officials by suppressing speech they viewed as a threat to public health.

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