Saturday, September 9, 2023

Last Call For Socially Acceptable

The 5th Circuit has ruled that while the Biden Administration can continue to remain in contact with social media companies, overturning a lower court's decision in part, it still found that the White House most likely violated the First Amendment rights of social media companies by coercing them to take down social media disinformation posts about COVID vaccination and The Big Lie on 2020 election fraud, even though they were falsehoods.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit on Friday ruled that the Biden White House, top government health officials and the FBI likely violated the First Amendment by improperly influencing tech companies’ decisions to remove or suppress posts on the coronavirus and elections.

The decision was likely to be seen as victory for conservatives who’ve long argued that social media platforms’ content moderation efforts restrict their free speech rights. But some advocates also said the ruling was an improvement over a temporary injunction U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty issued July 4.

David Greene, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the new injunction was “a thousand times better” than what Doughty, an appointee of former president Trump, had ordered originally.

Doughty’s decision had affected a wide range of government departments and agencies, and imposed 10 specific prohibitions on government officials. The appeals court threw out nine of those and modified the 10th to limit it to efforts to “coerce or significantly encourage social-media companies to remove, delete, suppress, or reduce, including through altering their algorithms, posted social-media content containing protected free speech.”

The 5th Circuit panel also limited the government institutions affected by its ruling to the White House, the surgeon general’s office, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI. It removed restrictions Doughty had imposed on the departments of State, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services and on agencies including the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The 5th Circuit found that those agencies had not coerced the social media companies to moderate their sites.

Read the 5th Circuit's ruling

The judges wrote that the White House likely “coerced the platforms to make their moderation decisions by way of intimidating messages and threats of adverse consequences.” They also found the White House “significantly encouraged the platforms’ decisions by commandeering their decision-making processes, both in violation of the First Amendment.”

A White House spokesperson said in a statement that the Justice Department was “reviewing” the decision and evaluating its options.

“This Administration has promoted responsible actions to protect public health, safety, and security when confronted by challenges like a deadly pandemic and foreign attacks on our elections,” the White House official said. “Our consistent view remains that social media platforms have a critical responsibility to take account of the effects their platforms are having on the American people, but make independent choices about the information they present.”

The decision is likely to have a wide-ranging impact on how the federal government communicates with the public and the social media companies about key public health issues and the 2024 elections.

The case is the most successful salvo to date in a growing conservative legal and political effort to limit coordination between the federal government and tech platforms. This case and recent probes in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives have accused government officials of actively colluding with platforms to influence public discourse, in an evolution of long-running allegations that liberal employees inside tech companies favor Democrats when making decisions about what posts are removed or limited online.

The appeals court judges found that pressure from the White House and the CDC affected how social media platforms handled posts about covid-19 in 2021, as the Biden administration sought to encourage the public to obtain vaccinations.

The judges detail multiple emails and statements from White House officials that they say show escalating threats and pressure on the social media companies to address covid misinformation. The judges say that the officials “were not shy in their requests,” calling for posts to be removed “ASAP” and appearing “persistent and angry.” The judges detailed a particularly contentious period in July of 2021, which reached a boiling point when President Biden accused Facebook of “killing people.”

“We find, like the district court, that the officials’ communications — reading them in ‘context, not in isolation’ — were on-the-whole intimidating,” the judges wrote.
What this means is that the White House's plans to patrol social media for disinformation campaigns by foreign actors is reduced to ashes, and that it's not like Twitter or Facebook were going to cooperate anyway.  
Besides, the Roberts Court will almost certainly side with Republicans here, it's just a matter of how pervasive the court order is. I don't expect the executive branch to be cut off from any contact with social media companies whatsoever as with Judge Doughty's initial ruling, but a SCOTUS precedent that forbids any state or federal moderation of social media content is right in line with what Justices Alito or Thomas would do.

Also, the ruling all but begs the Biden administration to appeal this directly to the Supreme Court, giving the administration until a week from Monday to do so before the order takes effect. An internet freed from any regulations and responsibilities would be a tremendous weapon for the right-wing ghouls and trolls to unleash upon the rest of us.

Regardless,expect your social media feeds to be flooded by targeted political ads and far worse in the next 14 months.

Hizzonerless, Mayor Adams

In a sharp escalation over the migrant crisis, Mayor Eric Adams claimed in stark terms that New York City was being destroyed by an influx of 110,000 asylum seekers from the southern border and said that he did not see a way to fix the issue.

“Let me tell you something New Yorkers, never in my life have I had a problem that I did not see an ending to — I don’t see an ending to this,” the mayor said on Wednesday night in his opening remarks at a town hall-style gathering in Manhattan. “This issue will destroy New York City.”

Mr. Adams, a Democrat in his second year in office, has clashed with leading members of his party as New York City has struggled to provide housing and services to the migrants. For months, Mr. Adams has criticized President Biden and Gov. Kathy Hochul for failing to help the city handle the asylum seekers and pleaded for additional funding and expedited work permits.

But the mayor’s comments on Wednesday were his most ominous yet. He pointed to new projections that the city’s budget gap could grow to nearly $12 billion — the same amount that city officials estimate that the migrants could cost the city over three years.

“Every community in this city is going to be impacted,” Mr. Adams said at the meeting. “We have a $12 billion deficit that we’re going to have to cut — every service in this city is going to be impacted. All of us.”

The surge of migrants crossing the southern border has overwhelmed the city, with nearly 60,000 occupying beds in traditional city shelters and in more than 200 emergency sites. As New York City students returned to school on Thursday, city officials said that about 20,000 migrant children were expected to join them.

The financial and logistical burden has caused the mayor to repeatedly press Mr. Biden for help this summer, saying last week that the city’s requests were still mostly “unaddressed” and calling for a federal emergency and a national “decompression strategy at the border.”
To recap, the Democratic mayor of the largest, most populous, most diverse city in America sounds precisely like a Republican politician and blames President Biden for having too many migrants coming to the Big Apple, and blames him for yet another round of social services cuts that will "have to happen."

As much of a bonehead that de Blasio was, as much as a corrupt asshole that Bloomberg was, Eric Adams is the most anti-New Yorker that ever got into Gracie Mansion in my lifetime (yes, even Rudy didn't go this far) and NYC cannot get rid of this guy quickly enough.

The Road To Gilead Does Not Go Through Mexico

With a new sweeping legal ruling where Mexico's Supreme Court has decriminalized abortion in all states in the country this week, our southern neighbor is now infinitely more enlightened than America is on women's rights.

Mexico’s Supreme Court threw out all federal criminal penalties for abortion Wednesday, ruling that national laws prohibiting the procedure are unconstitutional and violate women’s rights in a sweeping decision that extended Latin American’s trend of widening abortion access.

The high court ordered that abortion be removed from the federal penal code. The ruling will require the federal public health service and all federal health institutions to offer abortion to anyone who requests it.

“No woman or pregnant person, nor any health worker, will be able to be punished for abortion,” the Information Group for Chosen Reproduction, known by its Spanish initials GIRE, said in a statement.

Some 20 Mexican states, however, still criminalize abortion. While judges in those states will have to abide by the court’s decision, further legal work will be required to remove all penalties.

Celebration of the ruling soon spilled out onto social media.

“Today is a day of victory and justice for Mexican women!” Mexico’s National Institute for Women wrote in a message on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. The government organization called the decision a “big step” toward gender equality.

Sen. Olga Sánchez Cordero, a former Supreme Court justice, applauded the ruling, saying on X that it represented an advance toward “a more just society in which the rights of all are respected.” She called on Mexico’s Congress to pass legislation in response.

But others in the highly religious country decried the decision. Irma Barrientos, director of the Civil Association for the Rights of the Conceived, said opponents will continue the fight against expanded abortion access.

“We’re not going to stop,” Barrientos said. “Let’s remember what happened in the United States. After 40 years, the Supreme Court reversed its abortion decision, and we’re not going to stop until Mexico guarantees the right to life from the moment of conception.”

The court said on X that “the legal system that criminalized abortion” in Mexican federal law was unconstitutional because it “violates the human rights of women and people with the ability to gestate.”

The decision came two years after the court ruled that abortion was not a crime in one northern state. That ruling set off a slow state-by-state process of decriminalizing it.

Last week, the central state of Aguascalientes became the 12th state to drop criminal penalties.

Abortion-rights activists will have to continue seeking legalization state by state, though Wednesday’s decision should make that easier. State legislatures can also act on their own to erase abortion penalties.

For now, the ruling does not mean that every Mexican women will be able to access the procedure immediately, explained Fernanda Díaz de León, sub-director and legal expert for women’s rights group IPAS.

What it does do — in theory — is obligate federal agencies to provide the care to patients. That’s likely to have a cascade of effects.

Díaz de León said removing the federal ban takes away another excuse used by care providers to deny abortions in states where the procedure is no longer a crime.

It also allows women with formal employment who are part of the social security system and government employees to seek the procedure in federal institutions in states where the abortion is still criminalized, she said.

Díaz de León and officials at other feminist organizations worry that women, particularly in more conservative areas, may still be denied abortions.

“It’s a very important step,” Díaz de León said. But “we need to wait to see how this is going to be applied and how far it reaches.”

The battle to decriminalize the state laws will continue, but I don't see how they will survive in the wake of this ruling.

And yet in the US, we're headed for more bans and more evidence that the country being divided into states where a woman has a right to her own reproductive system and states where she 100% does not is unsustainable federally.

I expect a federal ruling is going to come sooner rather than later where there's five votes to say that the availability of abortions in blue states is infringing upon red state bans, and that it's the blue states who are wrong and that the whole thing has to go. That's the endgame.

How quickly we get there depends on a lot of things, but the more Republicans get into power, the faster this handbasket goes to hell.
Increasingly, America is the outlier rogue nation that other, more civilized countries are warning their own people about, and with good reason.
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