Supreme Court hearing multiple free speech cases

 March 24, 2024

This month, the Supreme Court undertook a comprehensive review of three free speech cases, sparking concern among government officials and civil libertarians.

While each case addresses distinct issues, collectively, they traverse a spectrum of free speech controversies confronting the nation.

The significance

Of particular note during oral arguments were the expressions of certain justices, notably Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, whose remarks raised eyebrows regarding the court's stance on freedom of speech.

Observers suggest a potential shift among liberal scholars and politicians away from the defense of free speech and toward increased government regulation of speech.

The U.S. is in one of the most hostile periods for free speech in its history. On university campuses, a movement led by law professors seeks to restrict free speech under the guise of combating hate speech or disinformation. This convergence of governmental, corporate, and academic interests poses a significant threat to free expression.

Targeting free speech?

This ominous convergence is now before the Supreme Court, which is examining cases involving government targeting of critics, dissenting websites, and revenue streams.

In Murthy v. Missouri, the court scrutinized a comprehensive censorship system coordinated by federal agencies and social media platforms. This initiative, escalated under President Joe Biden's administration, underscores a concerning trend toward government-sanctioned suppression of opposing viewpoints.

Despite the administration's missteps in addressing pandemic-related issues, dissenting voices faced censorship, highlighting the perilous implications for free speech.

Justice Jackson's influence

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson's remarks during oral arguments in Murthy v. Missouri suggest a concerning willingness to endorse government coercion of speech under certain circumstances, such as during a pandemic or national emergency. This perspective, if adopted by the court, would signify a departure from traditional principles of free speech.

In another case, National Rifle Association of America v. Vullo, the court deliberates on efforts by a New York regulator to dissuade financial institutions from associating with the NRA. This case exemplifies a tactic employed by the anti-free speech movement, wherein advertisers and businesses of targeted individuals or groups face pressure from government entities.

The third case, Gonzalez v. Trevino, involves the arrest of Sylvia Gonzalez, a former councilwoman in Castle Hills, Texas, who criticized local officials. This case underscores concerns about the politicization of the legal system and potential retaliation against dissenting voices.

These cases encapsulate the free speech community's primary concerns: censorship, blacklisting, and the weaponization of government power. The court's rulings in these cases will have far-reaching implications for the protection of free speech rights.

The views expressed by certain justices, particularly Justices Kagan, Jackson, and Sotomayor, signal a departure from the traditional defense of free speech by liberal justices.

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