At the end of last year, we reflected on what the Reporters Committee accomplished in 2022. We chronicled wins in litigation, public records obtained, court documents unsealed, and friend-of-the-court briefs filed. Now, a look at some of what’s to come in 2023.
As we have talked about in this newsletter before, this Supreme Court term is set to be a big one for First Amendment and First Amendment-adjacent issues. Most notably, the Court has taken up two cases about the liability of social media platforms for user-generated content posted on their sites: Twitter v. Taamneh and Gonzalez v. Google. (We joined a friend-of-the-court brief in Taamneh, and plan to file one in Gonzalez, too.) These cases could deliver rulings that dramatically change the regulatory framework for the internet — creating significant incentives for platforms to over-moderate constitutionally protected and newsworthy speech — or they could be decided on narrow grounds. (We argue for the latter in our briefs.)
The Court will also likely take up one (or both) of the First Amendment challenges to laws in Texas and Florida that regulate content moderation on social media. These cases have generated disagreement between federal circuit courts, which the Supreme Court probably wants to resolve. (We filed friend-of-the-court briefs in both cases.) We have talked about these cases in this newsletter before, and we agree with the platforms that the laws in both states run afoul of the First Amendment’s protection for editorial discretion.
We are also looking forward to further developments in a number of our ongoing unsealing cases. Last year, we filed two lawsuits seeking access to warrant materials authorizing the search and seizure of two federal lawmakers’ possessions. The government has opposed unsealing the materials in both cases, and has filed its briefs completely under seal in both cases. In one case, the court ordered the government to unseal portions of its brief, and we hope that it orders unsealing when it reaches the merits, too. (In 2022, the Reporters Committee won a lawsuit to unseal records related to the closed insider-trading investigation of Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), which generated a great deal of buzz.)
We also anticipate a ruling in our case seeking the release of technical assistance orders sought by the government under the All Writs Act. We have filed a number of cases across the country seeking access to these orders, and recently had some success getting them unsealed in Pennsylvania. We hope the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit follows suit!
All told, 2023 is shaping up to be a big year for our issues. Stay tuned for updates.
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The Technology and Press Freedom Project at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press uses integrated advocacy — combining the law, policy analysis, and public education — to defend and promote press rights on issues at the intersection of technology and press freedom, such as reporter-source confidentiality protections, electronic surveillance law and policy, and content regulation online and in other media. TPFP is directed by Reporters Committee attorney Gabe Rottman. He works with RCFP Staff Attorney Grayson Clary and Technology Press Freedom Project Fellow Emily Hockett.