SCOTUS Dismisses Case Regarding Social Media Censorship

The US Supreme Court on June 26 overturned a lower court’s ruling that sided with Republican-led states in a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s involvement in censoring the social media posts of American citizens, ruling that the plaintiffs in the case did not have standing.

In a 6-3 ruling, the court threw out the decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that said the White House, the CDC, the FBI, and the Surgeon General could not “coerce” social media platforms to remove posts the government opposed.

The attorneys general for Missouri and Louisiana sued the federal government over its efforts to censor the free speech of social media users who posted on certain issues, including COVID-19, election interference, and Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop. 

Writing for the majority, Justice Amy Coney Barrett said the states and other parties in the lawsuit did not have legal standing to bring the case to court.

Chief Justice Roberts, along with Liberal Justices Elana Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ketanji Brown Jackson, as well as Conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh also sided with the Biden administration.

Conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Louisiana and Missouri had argued that officials in the White House, FBI, the Surgeon General’s office, and the US cybersecurity agency used “unrelenting pressure” to force social media platforms to remove online content they opposed.

During oral arguments in March, the justices appeared skeptical of the claims, and several expressed concern that routine interactions between social media companies and the government could be affected by the appellate court’s ruling.

The Biden administration argued that the federal government would be unable to communicate with social media companies on issues of public health, national security, and election integrity.

Louisiana’s Republican Attorney General Liz Murrill described the high court’s decision as “disappointing” and “unfortunate.” She said in a statement that the Supreme Court had given the government a “free pass” to “threaten” social media platforms into censoring and suppressing constitutionally protected speech.

In its decision, the Supreme Court did not rule on the substance of the claims made by the states. Instead, it only ruled that the states did not have legal standing to bring the lawsuit.