BREAKING: Supreme Court sides with Biden admin over Covid-era social media censorship

By Thomas Stevenson – The Post Millennial

BREAKING: Supreme Court sides with Biden admin over Covid-era social media censorship

The Supreme Court came down with a decision on Thursday in a free speech case, ruling that the plaintiffs in the case did not have legal standing to sue the government.

In the case of Murthy v Missouri, Republican attorneys general as well as people who had social media posts downgraded have argued that Surgeon General Murthy and the Biden administration coordinated with the Biden White House in order to pressure social media companies into taking down specific content related to COVID-19. They have argued that the campaign to pressure social media companies amounted to an infringement on the First Amendment.

The case was filed in 2022 in Louisiana by the Missouri and Louisiana AGs, per SCOTUS Blog. This along with several social media users, some of which were epidemiologists and doctors. The challengers contended that posts on Facebook, YouTube, and X had been suppressed due to government pressure of social media companies.

In July 2023, US District Judge Terry Doughty ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, writing that the government had violated their right to free speech. The 5th Circuit then upheld Doughty’s decision. The Biden administration subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

In the opinion from Thursday, the majority opinion from Justice Amy Coney Barrett read, “The plaintiffs, two States and five social-media users, sued dozens of Executive Branch officials and agencies, alleging that they pressured the platforms to suppress protected speech in violation of the First Amendment. The Fifth Circuit agreed, concluding that the officials’ communications rendered them responsible for the private platforms’ moderation decisions. It then affirmed a sweeping preliminary injunction. The Fifth Circuit was wrong to do so. To establish standing, the plaintiffs must demonstrate a substantial risk that, in the near future, they will suffer an injury that is traceable to a Government defendant and redressable by the injunction they seek. Because no plaintiff has carried that burden, none has standing to seek a preliminary injunction.”

Barrett later added, “Drs. Bhattacharya and Kulldorff claim that, after disagreeing with the CDC and other federal health officials, they faced a ‘relentless covert campaign of social-media censorship.’ They refer to the platforms’ suppression of the Great Barrington Declaration, their coauthored report calling for an end to lockdowns. But their declarations do not suggest that anyone at the CDC was involved; rather, they point to officials at the National Institutes of Health and the NIAID. Those entities are not before us. With nothing else to show, Drs. Bhattacharya, Kulldorff, and Kheriarty have not established a likelihood that their past restrictions are traceable to either the White House officials or the CDC.”

“The plaintiffs, without any concrete link between their injuries and the defendants’ conduct, ask us to conduct a review of the years-long communications between dozens of federal officials, across different agencies, with different social-media platforms, about different topics. This Court’s standing doctrine prevents us from ‘exercis[ing such] general legal oversight’ of the other branches of Government. We therefore reverse the judgment of the Fifth Circuit and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

In prior oral arguments, left-wing Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson seemed to argue in favor of the government pressuring the social media companies saying, “My biggest concern is that your view is that you have the First Amendment hamstringing the government in significant ways in the most important time periods.”

The court ruled against the challengers in the case 6 to 3.

In the dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “If the lower courts’ assessment of the voluminous record is correct, this is one of the most important free speech cases to reach this Court in years. Freedom of speech serves many valuable purposes, but its most important role is protection of speech that is essential to democratic self-government.”

“For months in 2021 and 2022, a coterie of officials at the highest levels of the Federal Government continuously harried and implicitly threatened Facebook with potentially crippling consequences if it did not comply with their wishes about the suppression of certain COVID–19-related speech. Not surprisingly, Facebook repeatedly yielded. As a result Hines was indisputably injured, and due to the officials’ continuing efforts, she was threatened with more of the same when she brought suit. These past and threatened future injuries were caused by and traceable to censorship that the officials coerced, and the injunctive relief she sought was an available and suitable remedy. This evidence was more than sufficient to establish Hines’s standing to sue,” Alito later added.

“The Court, however, shirks that duty and thus permits the successful campaign of coercion in this case to stand as an attractive model for future officials who want to control what the people say, hear, and think. That is regrettable. What the officials did in this case was more subtle than the ham-handed censorship found to be unconstitutional in Vullo, but it was no less coercive. And because of the perpetrators’ high positions, it was even more dangerous. It was blatantly unconstitutional, and the country may come to regret the Court’s failure to say so.”

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