Conservatives slam Supreme Court's ruling on social media censorship

 July 5, 2024

America's highest judicial body made headlines late last month when it dismissed a lawsuit filed by a group of Republican-led states over the federal government's history of pressuring social media companies to censor content.

The move stunned many conservatives, including Daily Caller columnist Katelynn Richardson, who said it had "Orwellian" implications. 

Agencies had platforms suppress stories about COVID and 2020 election

The majority opinion was authored by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts as well as Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Ketanji Brown Jackson.

She noted how "[d]uring the 2020 election season and the COVID–19 pandemic, social-media platforms frequently removed, demoted, or fact checked posts containing allegedly false or misleading information."

"At the same time, federal officials, concerned about the spread of 'misinformation' on social media, communicated extensively with the platforms about their content-moderation efforts," Barrett continued.

She then declared, "We begin—and end—with standing. At this stage, neither the individual nor the state plaintiffs have established standing to seek an injunction against any defendant. We therefore lack jurisdiction to reach the merits of the dispute."

Alito accuses colleagues of shirking their duty

The decision to dismiss on the basis of standing was not well received by Justice Samuel Alito, who was joined in his dissent by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.

Alito conceded that private companies "may publish or decline to publish whatever they wish" but stressed that " government officials may not coerce private entities to suppress speech."

He accused his colleagues of shirking their duty and permitting "the successful campaign of coercion in this case to stand as an attractive model for future officials who want to control what the people say, hear, and think."

Those arguments were echoed by Richardson in an article published on Thursday, who accused the Supreme Court of having "unleashed renewed threats to Americans’ ability to speak and listen freely online."

Civil liberties advocates slam ruling

Center for American Liberty associate counsel Eric Sell agreed, saying that the ruling is "a roadmap for government actors, not just the federal government, but also state and local government actors, to reach out to social media companies and pressure them into censoring this disfavored speech."

New Civil Liberties Alliance senior litigation counsel spoke up as well, asserting that the decision provides "wide running room" who wish to silence disfavored voices.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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