Missouri social media lawsuit will be heard by U.S. Supreme Court on March 18

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on March 18 in Missouri’s lawsuit alleging the federal government colluded with social media companies like Twitter and Facebook to suppress the freedom of speech.

The lawsuit was filed in 2022 by attorneys general in Missouri and Louisiana.

Last summer, U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty ruled that officials under both Democratic President Joe Biden and Republican President Donald Trump coerced social media companies to censor content over concerns it would fuel vaccine hesitancy during the COVID-19 pandemic or upend elections.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans prohibited the White House, the Surgeon General’s Office, the F.B.I., and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from having practically any contact with the social media companies. It found that the Biden administration most likely overstepped the First Amendment by urging the major social media platforms to remove misleading or false content.

The Supreme Court placed a temporary stay on the order in October until it decides the case. Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch dissented.

Biden administration attorneys have argued federal officials don’t have the authority to order content removed from social media platforms, accusing GOP attorneys general of misrepresenting communications with companies about public health disinformation and election conspiracies.

The government has a right to express views in order to persuade others to take action, Biden administration attorneys argued in case filings.

“A central dimension of presidential power,” the administration argues, “is the use of the office’s bully pulpit to seek to persuade Americans — and American companies — to act in ways that the president believes would advance the public interest.”

But the bully pulpit, Missouri and Louisiana attorneys general wrote, “is not a pulpit to bully.”

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