What’s happening: A court ruling has temporarily blocked several Biden administration officials from telling social media platforms to censor lawful speech. Legacy media portray the decision not as a victory for freedom of thought—a bedrock principle of journalism—but as a loss for the U.S. government that will hurt America.
Echoing the government: “Court ruling prompts fears of ‘Wild West of disinformation,’” reads a headline at The Hill. That article notes that the ruling “could make it harder to curb disinformation as the 2024 election nears.” NPR wrote that the decision will hinder “the government’s ability…to address false and misleading claims about COVID, vaccines, voting, and other issues that could undermine public health and erode confidence in election results,” closely mimicking the Biden administration’s rhetoric.
- What misinformation? In its coverage of the ruling, The New York Times is still calling the claim that “Covid-19 vaccines do not prevent transmission of the disease” a “debunked” theory, despite it being proven a long time ago.
Alarmism: Other outlets also suggest that the ruling might create a “chilling effect” by which the government becomes reluctant to communicate with social media companies about potential “lies.” But if anything, the ruling may not be strict enough to fully protect free speech, as we explained here.
Big picture: Journalists should cheer this decision to restrict government censorship. Instead, the mainstream media are defending the government's collusion with social media companies to censor protected speech. That’s because they are partners in the censorship, routinely supporting government narratives and censoring via “fact checks.” With less censorship, these outlets are more vulnerable to being discredited in the public eye.