In her letter to several of the largest social media companies, the New York attorney general is demanding censorship of what she calls "calls for violence" related to the Middle East war.
She has 11 demands, including that by today, October 20, the platforms reveal internal and external policies for removing certain content and their process for suspending or deplatforming accounts.
Pointing out that the government does not have the authority to make such demands, Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) attorney Daniel Ortner calls the letter "really extraordinary."
"The letter doesn't explain where the authority comes from [or] why she can do this," he says. "If you look at the press release, it's pretty clear that it's not framed as a request."
The big problem is that James is purposefully, Ortner believes, unclear about what defines "calls for violence." That could mean posting support for one side or the other in the war -- or calls for protests and demonstrations in the states.
"The term 'may incite violence' is so vague in the context of this massive global conflict that's going on," notes Ortner. "It's pretty clear that it's demanding also that they ultimately take down content that the attorney general doesn't like."
And that, he says, does not square with the First Amendment.
"Free speech in this country is uninhibited," the attorney explains. "It can sometimes be rowdy, it can be coarse, it can be offensive to some, but that's the nature of free speech. It treats Americans as adults, not as children."
A.G. James' letter comes 10 months after FIRE sued her over a law titled "Social media networks; hateful conduct prohibited." In that case, the defender of individual rights successfully secured a preliminary injunction forbidding the attorney general from enforcing the law.
This letter violates that injunction, so FIRE is demanding that James retract the it by today or face further legal action.