Knight Institute v. Department of State

A FOIA lawsuit seeking records related to foreign state efforts to influence platforms’ content moderation

On March 24, 2023, the Knight Institute filed a FOIA lawsuit to enforce its request for records of correspondence between the Department of State and U.S.-based social media companies regarding foreign government requests to suppress or promote content on the companies’ platforms.

For more than 4.9 billion users worldwide, social media sites offer a platform for engaging in public debate, expressing political dissent, and organizing social movements. In recent years, however, authoritarian governments have used various coercive tactics to demand that platforms suppress political speech and prioritize state-endorsed narratives on their services. This practice, often referred to as “jawboning,” poses a grave threat to freedom of expression around the world.

The Institute’s FOIA request, filed on December 9, 2022, followed recent reporting on government interference in platforms’ content moderation practices in India, Brazil, and the Philippines, among other countries. The Knight Institute filed this lawsuit to enforce its request after the State Department failed to comply with the request in a timely manner.

Agencies Involved: Department of State

Status: Complaint filed on March 24, 2023.

Case Information: Knight First Amendment Inst. at Columbia Univ. v. Dep’t of State, No. 1:23-cv-2513 (S.D.N.Y.).

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