Supreme Court Seems to Back Government Lobbying on Posts

Louisiana, Missouri call administration's efforts a First Amendment issue
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2024 4:28 PM CDT
Supreme Court Seems to Back Government Lobbying on Posts
App logos for Facebook and X, formerly known as Twitter, are seen on a mobile phone in Los Angeles on Saturday.   (AP Photo/Paula Ulichney)

While looking for when the lobbying would become coercion, the Supreme Court sounded unreceptive to arguments Monday that the government should not be able to try to persuade news or social media companies to not publish certain information. The case began with the Biden administration's efforts last year to get sites to take down posts it called misinformation concerning coronavirus vaccines and election fraud claims. Louisiana and Missouri argued Monday that that was a violation of the First Amendment, the Washington Post reports.

Among the counterarguments was one advanced by Justices Elena Kagan and Brett Kavanaugh that government officials regularly try to influence their coverage in the media, per the New York Times. Such back-and-forth doesn't infringe on free speech, they said, though Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill told the court the administration's actions were "a huge threat to the First Amendment." The Justice Department's representative argued that the companies are able to resist government pressure, and research has found social media platforms took no action in two-thirds of the cases on which they were lobbied. The sites have "a responsibility to give people accurate information," Brian Fletcher said.

Justices also said they were having trouble seeing how the two states and five people who brought the case suffered harm that would give them standing to do so. "I don't see a single item in your briefs that would satisfy our normal tests," Kagan told Louisiana's solicitor general. Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested the states filed a misleading brief. "You omit information that changes the context of some of your claims," she told J. Benjamin Aguiñaga. "You attribute things to people who it didn't happen to." The court has similar cases to deal with; last month, justices questioned in oral arguments whether states can impose content rules on sites. (More US Supreme Court stories.)

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