SCOTUS Ruling Creates First Amendment Controversy

( – A recent Supreme Court decision in a case against efforts by the Biden administration to censor Americans has opened up new risks to the First Amendment.

On Wednesday, June 26, the Supreme Court lifted an injunction in the case Murthy v. Missouri, once again allowing the government to work with social media companies to target so-called “misinformation” and “disinformation.”

Almost a year prior, on July 4, 2023, US District Court Judge Terry Doughty issued the injunction restricting several federal agencies from working with social media companies to regulate what users can or cannot post. That injunction concluded that by colluding with social media platforms to control and censor content, the Biden administration likely violated constitutionally protected free speech under the First Amendment. Doughty called the censorship by social media “Orwellian.”

The latest ruling determined that the plaintiffs, consisting of five individuals and two states, lacked standing for an injunction against the federal government. Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote in the majority opinion that they failed to show a link between restrictions imposed upon them in the past by social media platforms and communications on those platforms. The conservative justice also noted how it was hard to establish direct harm from requests by the federal government when the platforms already have “independent incentives” for content moderation.

Justice Samuel Alito disagreed with the decision and said the ruling could send a message to the government that if censorship campaigns were “carried out with enough sophistication,” such collaborations with social media would go unchecked. He said rolling back the injunction would permit government agencies to coerce social media platforms into controlling “what the people say, hear, and think.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre praised the ruling and said it would help to ensure that the Biden administration can continue its “important work with technology companies to protect” Americans’ safety and security.

Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University, warned that if “very strong evidence of causal links” is required “just to get standing” in cases against government agencies, those agencies will exploit that “procedural requirement” to avoid “judicial scrutiny” of attempts to censor Americans. Somin said the ruling would make the problem worse as agencies “tailor” their communications while pressuring social media companies to comply with their suggestions.

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