OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
In a decision that many conservatives will likely applaud, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that will decide just how far the U.S. government can go in forcing social media companies to censor or suppress certain information.
The high court announced that it had issued a writ of certiorari in a lawsuit filed against the Biden administration by GOP attorneys general in Missouri and Louisiana in which the states seek to limit the federal government’s ability to pressure social media platforms like Facebook, X, and YouTube to stifle certain information without actually telling them to do so. Both states have argued that would amount to an obvious First Amendment violation against freedom of speech.
Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill praised the high court’s decision in a Friday statement.
“We are pleased to learn that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear this case, giving us yet another opportunity to defend the people from this assault on our First Amendment rights,” Murrill said. “It brings us one step closer to reestablishing the protections guaranteed to us in the Constitution and under the First Amendment.
“We hope that the Supreme Court will agree that this gross abuse of power must stop and never happen again,” she added.
The Western Journal noted further:
The lawsuit, initially filed by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt in May 2022, dealt with how the government put pressure on tech giants to censor certain information, particularly as it related to the COVID-19 pandemic — and the efficacy of and/or dangers potentially posed by mask-wearing, vaccines and other measures.
In a ruling on July 4, U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty fired the first shot in the legal volley on the case, issuing a decision that blocked a number of federal agencies — specifically, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Census Bureau, the FBI and the Department of Justice — from interacting with companies in a way that could be construed as “encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.”
The Associated Press reported in September that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans mostly ruled in favor of both states but “tossed out broader language in an order that a Louisiana-based federal judge had issued July 4 that effectively blocked multiple government agencies from contacting platforms like Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) to urge the removal of content.”
But while the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, it also paused Doughty’s injunction, though some of the court’s conservative justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch — said they would have left the injunction in place.
“Despite the Government’s conspicuous failure to establish a threat of irreparable harm, the majority stays the injunction and thus allows the defendants to persist in committing the type of First Amendment violations that the lower courts identified,” Alito wrote in a five-page dissent on the decision to stay the injunction. “The majority takes this action in the face of the lower courts’ detailed findings of fact.”
“Applying our settled test for granting a stay, I would deny the Government’s application, but I would specify in the order that in the unlikely event that a concrete occurrence presents a risk of irreparable harm, the Government can apply for relief at that time, including, if necessary, by filing an emergency application here,” he continued. “Such an order would fully protect the ability of Executive Branch officials to speak out on matters of public concern.
“At this time in the history of our country, what the Court has done, I fear, will be seen by some as giving the Government a green light to use heavy-handed tactics to skew the presentation of views on the medium that increasingly dominates the dissemination of news. That is most unfortunate,” he added.