Administration Can Fight Online Posts for Now

Supreme Court says it will consider lawsuit over efforts to take down COVID, election posts
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2023 1:50 PM CDT
Updated Oct 20, 2023 4:35 PM CDT
Judges Find Administration Probably Violated Free Speech
The White House in February 2022.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
UPDATE Oct 20, 2023 4:35 PM CDT

The Supreme Court said Friday it will take up a lawsuit accusing the Biden administration of unconstitutionally trying to silence political views it disagrees with on social media, the AP reports. In the meantime, the court said it's blocking a lower court order curbing those efforts to have posts removed on topics including COVID-19 and election security that the government says are misleading, the AP reports. Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas dissented. A ruling on the suit will be issued by June, when the court's term ends, per the Washington Post. The plaintiffs include Louisiana and Missouri.

Sep 9, 2023 1:50 PM CDT

A federal appeals court delivered a mixed ruling to the Biden administration on its attempts to get social media sites to remove false information about COVID-19, cutting back a lower court's injunction on the issue while saying the actions probably infringed on First Amendment protections. A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit wrote that White House officials and the Office of the Surgeon General "coerced the platforms to make their moderation decisions by way of intimidating messages and threats of adverse consequences," the New York Times reports.

At the same time, the judges found a preliminary injunction issued this summer that bars several administration officials and agencies from having almost any contact with social media companies was "vague and broader than necessary," per CNN. The panel limited the order to the White House, Surgeon General's Office, FBI, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The administration had argued that the government needs to be able to communicate with social media companies to help protect the public from COVID misinformation and threats to election security, for starters.

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Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry praised the ruling as a victory over censorship. "It confirms what we have said from the very beginning: the federal government is not permitted to engage in viewpoint suppression, no matter your political ideology," he said. White House officials said the Justice Department is reviewing the decision, per USA Today. The three judges on the panel are all Republican appointees. They put a 10-day hold on the ruling to allow time for an appeal to the Supreme Court. (More protected speech stories.)

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