Supreme Court will hear lawsuit against Biden administration over online censorship

October 23, 2023

The Biden administration may have suffered a legal blow last week when the Supreme Court agreed to hear a lawsuit accusing it of social media censorship. 

According to The Hill, Friday's announcement came in response to a convoluted series of events last month involving the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lower court injunction partially reversed

A three-judge panel of the court ruled that the Biden administration violated the First Amendment in some of its dealing with social media companies.

Specifically, the judges found that the White House, the FBI, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) unlawfully coerced big tech companies into removing posts that the agencies found objectionable.

However, the panels also determined that efforts by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the State Department did not act unconstitutionally in conduct.

Reuters reported that the decision partly reversed a lower court injunction barring most administration departments from having contact with social media platforms.

That came in response to a lawsuit brought by the Republican attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana as well as several individuals.

Supreme Court issues stay on injunction

The Hill noted that the Department of Justice (DOJ) reacted by requesting a stay from the Supreme Court whereas the attorneys general asked the appeals court to rehear their case, something it did without allowing the DOJ to reply.

This move was condemned by the DOJ as being "unreasoned" and prompted it to again seek a stay from the nation's highest judicial body on Tuesday.

Yet later that same day, the Fifth Circuit withdrew its order granting a rehearing, with a spokesperson telling The Hill that the initial order came from a "misunderstanding of the court’s directions" and had been "corrected."

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court issued a stay on the injunction against the Biden administration over the objections of Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.

Alito warns of "heavy-handed tactics" by government

While the stay represents a temporary win for the White House, Justice Alito dissent suggests that he and Thomas are not at all sympathetic to its position.

"At this time in the history of our country, what the Court has done, I fear, will be seen by some as giving the Government a green light to use heavy-handed tactics to skew the presentation of views on the medium that increasingly dominates the dissemination of news," he wrote.

For his part, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey issued a statement that read, "We look forward to dismantling Joe Biden’s vast censorship enterprise at the nation’s highest court."

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