Knudsen Leads Coalition Against Social Media Censorship
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen led a coalition of nine attorneys general in asking the Supreme Court of the United States to take up the social-media censorship case of O’Handley v. Weber and protect Americans’ right to free speech.
The attorneys general filed a brief Friday, Aug. 25, in support of Rogan O’Handley, a political commentator who was censored on Twitter for his tweets regarding the 2020 election. The California Secretary of State’s Office of Election Cybersecurity colluded with the social media giant to censor O’Handley for speech it deemed to be “misinformation.” O’Handley has asked SCOTUS to review the case and reverse the U.S. Court of Appeals for Ninth Circuit’s decision.
“Government officials routinely justify their push to suppress these viewpoints by describing the disfavored viewpoints as ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation.’ But letting the government decide what is true or false on great, hotly contested social and political questions — and then induce private companies to suppress supposedly ‘false’ speech — is profoundly at odds with the First Amendment,’’ the attorneys general wrote in their brief.
“One of the greatest privileges of being an American is our right to free speech which includes the ability to express our viewpoints without the fear of being silenced by the government. No one’s voice should be silenced because of their political opinions or commentary on social media, which functions as today’s ‘modern public square,’” Attorney General Knudsen said. “Government cannot hide behind Mafia- style tactics or collusion with Big Tech to engage in viewpoint censorship. The Supreme Court should take up this case and stop the attack on free speech in the United States.”
The Ninth Circuit’s finding that no state action occurred conflicts with the holdings of the Supreme Court and other courts across the country and threatens First Amendment rights. Similar mass-flagging operations to censor disfavored viewpoints on social media have become common among state, local, and federal government and are one of the “greatest First Amendment challenges facing our nation.”
“By setting up a formal mass-flagging operation with Twitter and providing Twitter with specific information in real time about alleged violations of its policies, the California Secretary of State significantly encouraged Twitter to suppress First Amendment-protected speech of ordinary Americans on the basis of viewpoint,” the brief states.
Knudsen also led a coalition of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief earlier this month in a similar case, Missouri v. Biden, asking the court to protect the First Amendment in the United States and stop federal censorship of disfavored speech on social media platforms.
Attorneys general from Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas also joined Knudsen in filing the brief.