The Supreme Court’s decision to review a case pertaining to the extent of government authority in regulating free expression on social media has garnered widespread approval among conservative circles. This case is expected to establish a significant legal precedent in this domain.
On Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States revealed that it had granted a writ of certiorari in a case involving the states of Louisiana and Missouri against the Biden administration. This case revolves around the states’ efforts to limit the federal government’s indirect encouragement of platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter/X to engage in censorship of unpopular viewpoints, without explicitly instructing them to do so. Such actions would constitute a clear violation of the First Amendment’s safeguarding of freedom of speech.
The ruling was commended by Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill in a statement released on Friday.
“We are pleased to learn that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear this case, giving us yet another opportunity to defend the people from this assault on our First Amendment rights,” Murrill exclaimed.
“It brings us one step closer to reestablishing the protections guaranteed to us in the Constitution and under the First Amendment,” she continued.
“We hope that the Supreme Court will agree that this gross abuse of power must stop and never happen again.”
The legal case, originally initiated by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt in May 2022, pertained to the exertion of governmental influence on major technology companies to restrict specific information, specifically concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. This included discussions on the effectiveness and potential risks associated with mask-wearing, vaccines, and other preventive measures.
On July 4, a ruling was made by U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty, initiating legal proceedings on the case. The decision entailed the prohibition of various federal agencies, namely the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Census Bureau, the FBI, and the Department of Justice, from engaging with companies in a manner that could be interpreted as “encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.”
According to a report by The Associated Press, in September, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans rendered a decision that largely favored the two states involved. The court “tossed out broader language in an order that a Louisiana-based federal judge had issued July 4 that effectively blocked multiple government agencies from contacting platforms like Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) to urge the removal of content.”
Now we arrive at the aspect that garners predominantly positive reception from conservatives – the decision to grant a writ of certiorari for the purpose of hearing the case. As reported by CBS News, during the presentation of the case to the Supreme Court, the injunction ordered by Judge Doughty will be temporarily suspended.
A dissent of the stay of the order was endorsed by three justices positioned on the conservative side of the bench, namely Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas.
Alito expressed in his dissent that “Despite the Government’s conspicuous failure to establish a threat of irreparable harm, the majority stays the injunction and thus allows the defendants to persist in committing the type of First Amendment violations that the lower courts identified. The majority takes this action in the face of the lower courts’ detailed findings of fact.”
“Applying our settled test for granting a stay, I would deny the Government’s application, but I would specify in the order that in the unlikely event that a concrete occurrence presents a risk of irreparable harm, the Government can apply for relief at that time, including, if necessary, by filing an emergency application here,” he went on. “Such an order would fully protect the ability of Executive Branch officials to speak out on matters of public concern.
“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. That is most unfortunate.”
Justice Alito continued:
“Moreover, it does not appear that any of the Government’s hypothetical communications would actually be prohibited by the injunction. Nor is any such example provided by the Court’s unreasoned order.” pic.twitter.com/Bwg0kdKGck
— Benjamin Weingarten (@bhweingarten) October 20, 2023
However, the very presence of this matter before the court is sufficient cause for celebration.
As seen by the disclosures known as the “Twitter files” and “Facebook files,” it becomes apparent that government entities expressed a clear and unequivocal desire to impose restrictions on specific information, mostly pertaining to COVID-19 and the contentious matter of Hunter Biden’s laptop.
Does this constitute an act of censorship? Does the presence of an irritable, unelected government bureaucrat, who operates inside a swamp-like environment and pledges to become bothersome should you fail to comply with their evident desires, differentiate significantly from a governmental directive?
The determination of the Supreme Court’s decision remains uncertain, and it is desirable that the outcome is straightforward.
The administration is likely to assert that its overt intimidation of these technology companies does not amount to legal suppression of speech. However, the implicit government intimidation should be sufficient grounds to prohibit the action targeted by this complaint.
Friday marked the initial phase in a potentially protracted and arduous endeavor for conservatives and other advocates of free speech to regain our fundamental rights as citizens of the United States from regulatory authorities and technology corporations that exhibit a lack of courage. These entities are aware that the only institution more dominant and monopolistic than themselves is the government.