Supreme Court to hear major case on social media influence

 March 17, 2024

Conservatives have long complained that President Joe Biden's administration is attempting to censor information online.

According to CBS News, America's highest judicial body is about to hear arguments over whether the White House's actions have been unconstitutional. 

Federal judge found White House has been "coercing" social media platforms

At issue are efforts at pressuring media companies into removing content related to the 2020 presidential election and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Known as Murthy v. Missouri, the case was brought by five social media users along with Louisiana and Missouri who claim that officials from the Centers for Disease Control, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security violated the 1st Amendment.

CBS News noted that a federal judge in Louisiana previously ruled against the Biden administration, finding that it had engaged in a pattern of "coercing" platforms into doing its bidding.

In his holding, U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty placed significant restrictions on what contact White House figures can have with social media companies.

Solicitor general says may "inform, to persuade, and to criticize"

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit subsequently agreed that the administration had transgressed the 1st Amendment.

While the appeals court said the White House cannot "coerce or significantly encourage" social media to engage in censorship, it did narrow the range of officials who are precluded from making contact with them.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar is representing the Biden administration, and she challenged whether the plaintiffs have standing to bring suit.

The solicitor general also defended the ability of government officials to "inform, to persuade, and to criticize" as part of their duties.

Prelogar denies that government communications were coercive

"The court imposed unprecedented limits on the ability of the president's closest aides to speak about matters of public concern, on the FBI's ability to address threats to the nation's security, and on CDC's ability to relay public-health information," Prelogar wrote in the government's filing.

"Influence is also the natural result of successful efforts to inform, to persuade, or to criticize," the solicitor general insisted.

"That the platforms often acted in response to the government's communications thus does not remotely show that those communications were coercive," Prelogar added.

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