Supreme Court Will Hear Biden Admin Censorship Case Amid Free Speech Concerns

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.


The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday in a free speech case following requests and demands by President Joe Biden’s administration of social media to remove posts over claims of “misinformation.”

In the case Murthy v. Missouri, the justices are tasked with considering what a district court judge referred to as the Biden administration’s “Orwellian” attempts to suppress online speech. The lawsuit, filed in 2022 by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana, along with five individual plaintiffs whose speech was censored on social media platforms, serves as the basis for the high court’s case, The Daily Caller reported.

“Even if you have not been personally censored, you’ve been impacted by this censorship because the First Amendment exists, not just for the speaker, but also for the listener,” Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, one of three physicians who joined the case as a plaintiff, told the outlet. “It’s necessary in a democracy that people have access to both sides of a contested issue or a public debate.”

Records acquired by the plaintiffs during the litigation revealed explicit requests from the White House urging platforms to promptly remove posts “ASAP” or deactivate accounts “immediately,” accompanied by demands phrased in more colorful language.

“Are you guys f**king serious?” the Biden White House emailed Facebook on July 15, 2021, the same day the administration and the surgeon general held a press event during which officials called on social media platforms to be held accountable for “poison” to be posted on them.

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“I want an answer on what happened here and I want it today,” the email continued. It’s not clear who sent it or who at Facebook received it.

“After the White House’s escalation of pressure in July 2021, platforms responded by treating the CDC as the final authority on what could and could not be posted on their platforms,” the plaintiff’s brief filed with the Supreme Court noted, adding that social platforms “capitulated to virtually all White House demands going forward.”

In July, a district court judge issued an injunction prohibiting Biden administration officials in agencies ranging from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) to the FBI from engaging with social media platforms to censor speech. The judge emphasized that the allegations in the case potentially constituted “the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history.” Subsequently, the Fifth Circuit upheld a narrower version of the injunction, The Daily Caller reported further.

The plaintiffs are urging the Supreme Court to uphold the injunction and declare that the removal of content by social media companies under government pressure constitutes state action.

“The government’s job is to police the line between lawful and unlawful speech, not the line between true and false speech,” New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) President Mark Chenoweth noted in a statement obtained by the outlet.

“Our Founding Fathers rightly did not trust the government to be the arbiter of truth. In fact, much of the speech the government suppressed in this case—about Covid-19 and Hunter Biden’s laptop—was truthful,” he added.

The DC noted further:

Censorship efforts challenged in the case expand beyond the White House.

Court records revealed the Center for Disease Control (CDC) flagged posts for platforms to remove and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) engaged in “switchboarding,”which is sending misinformation flagged by state and local election officials to social media companies for removal.

CISA also directed the creation of the private-sector Election Integrity Partnership in 2020 to do censorship work the government could not do directly due to First Amendment concerns.

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Some of the justices have already voiced concerns about the Biden administration’s efforts to squelch posts.

“Does the Government think that the First Amendment allows Executive Branch officials to engage in such conduct?” Justice Samuel Alito asked in an October dissent that was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.

He expressed concern that the majority’s decision to temporarily halt the injunction while considering the appeal might be interpreted as endorsing the government’s ongoing use of “heavy-handed tactics” to stifle speech, the DC noted.

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