A Federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction (meaning the matter must still go through the courts before anything becomes final) barring the Federal government from communicating with social-media companies with a view to influencing what those companies post or allow to be posted on their sites.
Some on the Left are objecting.
Some legal scholars have been skeptical that…courts could intervene without chilling legitimate government speech about controversial matters of public interest.
“Some legal scholars” are cynically distorting the situation. There is nothing in the judge’s ruling that bars government speech about controversial matters of public interest. The “government”—i.e., the men and women in government—remains entirely free to speak on any matters it wishes, and in any venue it wishes. The “government,” however, may not seek to tell—or even to try to influence—private enterprises what they might post or not post, or allow or not allow to be posted, on their sites.
The government has a plethora of outlets of its own: the White House, for instance, the Senate, and the House all have their own Web sites, as do each of the several Federal Departments and agencies, and every Congressman in the Congress. And many of those Congressmen hold aperiodic town halls to talk directly with their constituents—all of them should, and those meetings should occur more frequently—but that’s the Congressmen’s choice. Nothing bars any Congressman from doing any of those direct-to-constituents conversations as often as a Congressman might wish.
Furthermore, the judge noted in his injunction that
The Court finds…that a preliminary injunction here would not prohibit government speech.
A government entity has the right to speak for itself and is entitled to say what it wishes and express the views it wishes to express. The Free Speech Clause restricts government regulation of private speech; it does not regulate government speech.
At bottom, and especially in light of that last—and the plethora of legitimate government outlets for its own speech—the answer to speech with which government disagrees is not to bar the speech (outside of deliberate and overt incitement to riot), but to answer it with their own speech.
The judge’s preliminary injunction ruling can be read here.