Justice Samuel Alito Says Supreme Court Is Sending a Message That Green Lights Government Censorship

On Friday, the Supreme Court decided to indefinitely halt a lower court’s ruling that restricted the Biden administration’s actions against controversial social media posts, specifically concerning COVID-19 and election security.

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Louisiana, Missouri, and other plaintiffs have launched a suit alleging that administration officials have unconstitutionally silenced conservative perspectives. This addition increases the weight of this term’s social media-related cases for the Supreme Court.

Three justices, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas, did not favor hearing the Biden administration’s urgent appeal. In his dissent, Justice Alito expressed concerns, stating, “what the Court has done, I fear, will be perceived by some as a green signal for the Government to adopt forceful tactics in shaping opinions on the predominant news dissemination medium.”

The lawsuit claims that White House communication teams, the surgeon general, the FBI, and the U.S. cybersecurity agency pressured modifications in online content across platforms like Facebook and X (previously known as Twitter).

However, the companies in question are not directly involved in this litigation.

Previously, a three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans concluded that the Biden administration likely exerted unconstitutional influence over these platforms.

They emphasized that officials should not “coerce or significantly encourage” alterations in online content.

The Justice Department has countered, highlighting errors in the appellate ruling. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar noted, “the Fifth Circuit’s definition of coercion is overly broad, suggesting the FBI’s actions were coercive merely due to its authoritative position and the platforms’ occasional removal of flagged content.”

In a prior ruling, the 5th Circuit narrowed down an even broader decision from a federal judge, which sought to encompass more government officials and dissuade even subtle nudges to modify content.

Currently, the Supreme Court has four other cases related to social media awaiting review.

Among them, the justices are assessing laws from Florida and Texas that prevent major social media firms from removing posts based on expressed views. The tech giants argue these laws infringe on their First Amendment rights. This reflects a broader sentiment among Republicans who believe these platforms show bias against conservative opinions.

Additionally, two cases are determining whether public officials can prohibit critics from commenting on their social media accounts. This was a contentious point previously raised during then-President Donald Trump’s tenure, though the case was dismissed after his term concluded in January 2021.

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