The court further put a temporary stay on a ruling from the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals preventing the Biden administration from contacting social media companies over content concerns, meaning the administration is free to communicate with those companies while the Supreme Court decides on the case.
This means that, until a decision is reached by the Supreme Court, the government will be able to continue communicating with social media companies for the purpose of identifying so-called misinformation and disinformation and encourage platforms to remove that content from their sites. The government's attorneys had petitioned the court for a stay of the order, and the Supreme Court acquiesced, as they determined to hear the case.
The ruling preventing Biden officials from colluding with social media companies was made July 4, 2023. The ruling from the 5th Circuit read "If the allegations made by Plaintiffs are true, the present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history. In their attempts to suppress alleged disinformation, the Federal Government, and particularly the Defendants named here, are alleged to have blatantly ignored the First Amendment’s right to free speech."
Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch dissented to the stay, arguing First Amendment concerns.
Of the case, Alito wrote "This case concerns what two lower courts found to be a 'coordinated campaign' by high-level federal officials to suppress the expression of disfavored views on important public issues. To prevent the continuation of this campaign, these officials were enjoined from either 'coerc[ing]' social media companies to engage in such censorship or 'active[ly] control[ling]' those companies’ decisions about the content posted on their platforms."
"Today, however" the dissent reads, "a majority of the court, without undertaking a full review of the record and without any explanation, suspends the effect of the injunction until the court completes its review of this case, an event that may not occur until late in the spring of next year. Government censorship of private speech is antithetical to our democratic form of government, and therefore today’s decision is highly disturbing."
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who now holds the position after Eric Schmitt, who brought the case with Louisiana's Jeff Landry, said that the stay of the order is "the worst First Amendment violation in our nation's history. We look forward to dismantling Joe Biden's vast censorship enterprise at the nation's highest court."
The case was being heard in the Louisiana court, which ruled that Biden officials discussions with social media companies must be limited due to the fact that they likely overstepped their bounds in working with social media companies to label as "misinformation" anything that did not go along with the government's messaging. This included everything from Covid to the Hunter Biden laptop.
This ruling prevented the Surgeon General's Office, the FBI, and the CDC from contacting social media companies while the court heard the case. The allegation by the attorneys general is that the Biden administration violated the First Amendment by urging social media platforms to suppress, label as misinformation, disinformation or remove outright what the admin called false or misleading content.
They argue that the social media companies, at the urging of the government, removed not only potentially questionable content, but experiential accounts from Americans about vaccine side effects, personal experiences with Covid, etc.
The allegation, per the ruling in July, is that "Plaintiffs allege that Defendants suppressed conservative-leaning free speech, such as: (1) suppressing the Hunter Biden laptop story prior to the 2020 Presidential election; (2) suppressing speech about the lab-leak theory of COVID-19’s origin; (3) suppressing speech about the efficiency of masks and COVID-19 lockdowns; (4) suppressing speech about the efficiency of COVID-19 vaccines; (5) suppressing speech about election integrity in the 2020 presidential election; (6) suppressing speech about the security of voting by mail; (7) suppressing parody content about Defendants; (8) suppressing negative posts about the economy; and (9) suppressing negative posts about President Biden."
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