Supreme Court to decide whether Biden admin illegally bullied social media into censoring content

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Both a conservative district judge and an appeals court had largely sided with a lawsuit by Republican attorneys general in Missouri and Louisiana that accused the administration of violating the First Amendment by “coercing” networking platforms. social networks to remove content that the administration does not like.

Three conservative justices (Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch) dissented from the decision to block the injunction and joined a five-page opinion by Alito that called the court’s action “highly troubling” and said it threatened to restrict discussion of unpopular issues. political opinions online.

“At this moment in our country’s history, I fear that some will consider that what the Court has done gives the Government the green light to use strong-arm tactics to skew the presentation of opinions in the medium that it increasingly dominates. the dissemination of news,” Alito wrote. “That’s very unfortunate.”

“This is the worst violation of the First Amendment in the history of our nation. “We look forward to dismantling Joe Biden’s vast censorship enterprise at the nation’s highest court,” Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey said in a statement.

Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill said the Supreme Court’s action allows state prosecutors to “affirm once and for all that the government is not permitted to use the government speech doctrine to dampen the expression of views.” unfavorable.” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry was just elected governor and will take office in January.

Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.), the former Missouri attorney general who originally brought the case in 2022, called it “one of the most important free speech cases in a generation.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.

The justices in the majority on Friday did not explain their action, as is typical in cases that come to the court on an emergency basis, prompting a rebuke from Alito. “The majority suspend the aid provided below without giving any explanation,” he complained.

TO federal judge in Louisiana on July 4 issued the injunction after finding that the Biden administration likely violated the First Amendment when it contacted social media companies about content it claimed was false or misleading. The state AGs’ lawsuit alleged that the administration threatened the platforms with antitrust actions and reforms to the tech platforms’ liability shield, known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, if they did not comply with requests for removal from the platform. government.

The Justice Department says there is no evidence of coercion beyond public and private criticism of the companies by officials.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reduced that injunction in September, but the Justice Department said the order still threatened to prevent cautious FBI agents and other government officials from having any dealings with social media companies. , so that later the officials would not be accused of violating the court’s directive.

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