A July 4 injunction that places extraordinary limits on the government’s communications with tech companies undermines initiatives to harden social media companies against election interference, civil rights groups, academics and tech industry insiders say.
After companies and the federal government spent years expanding efforts to combat online falsehoods in the wake of Russian interference on the platforms during the 2016 election, the ruling is just the latest sign of the pendulum swinging in the other direction. Tech companies are gutting their content moderation staffs, researchers are pulling back from studying disinformation and key government communications with Silicon Valley are on pause amid unprecedented political scrutiny.
With voting in the 2024 primaries just months away, tech companies also are facing new election threats as leaps in artificial intelligence give bad actors new tools to create fake videos, photos and ads.
Amid that rapidly changing social media landscape, civil rights groups say U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty’s order will be a boon for election lies.
“As the U.S. gears up for the biggest election year the internet age has seen, we should be finding methods to better coordinate between governments and social media companies to increase the integrity of election news and information,” said Nora Benavidez, a senior counsel at Free Press, a digital civil rights group.