Hero of the Week: October 10, 2022: Leslie H. Southwick, Edith H. Jones, Andrew S. Oldham

Three judges stand up for freedom of speech!

With our Hero of the Week selections, we are celebrating a major victory for the First Amendment and freedom of expression. Three judges from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals—Circuit Judge Leslie H. Southwick, Circuit Judge Edith H. Jones, and Circuit Judge Andrew S. Oldham—decided against the censorship of users’ opinions by large social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. In a 90-page decision, the judges argued that plaintiffs NetChoice and Virginia-based CCIA (Computer Communications Industry Association) were using “circular reasoning” to defend their censorship of unwanted opinions of their users. 

“The Platforms [claim to] have a right to censor because they exercise editorial judgment, and they exercise editorial judgment because they censor.” ~ Judge Andrew S. Oldham

The judges’ decision also contradicted the media platforms’ argument that their public function was like that of “newspapers” and other traditional media, which can and must choose their content. Instead, the judges correctly understand social media platforms to be “common carriers,” much like a telephone company, which cannot step in and censor the calls and messages of their customers.

Quoting from the decision penned by Circuit Judge Andrew S. Oldham:

“The implications of the platforms’ argument are staggering. On the platforms’ view, email providers, mobile phone companies, and banks could cancel the accounts of anyone who sends an email, makes a phone call, or spends money in support of a disfavored political party, candidate, or business.”

Such censorship and disinformation are illegal, harmful, and lethal. We applaud the judges’ clarity and precision to uncover the deceitful and circular reasoning of the social media companies.

“Today we reject the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say. Because the district court held otherwise, we reverse its injunction and remand for further proceedings.”

This is an important decision that will be escalated to the Supreme Court and, if upheld, can put an end to the illegal censoring of users and opinions that has become major social media platforms’ standard operating practice in recent years, and especially since the coronavirus p(l)andemic.

Related:

90-page court decision by Circuit Judge Andrew S. Oldham

Alex Berenson Substack on the significance of the court decision

Newsweek opinion piece on the ruling

Politico reporting on the ruling