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| 1 minute read

SCOTUS to Hear First Amendment Case Stemming from Government Efforts to Manage Misinformation on Social Media

The Supreme Court has voted 6-3 to hear a First Amendment case brought by two states and several officials relating to the federal government's work with social media platforms to discourage online misinformation.  The White House, Surgeon General, CDC, FBI, and CISA (the country's cyber watchdog agency) are all involved in the federal effort to combat misinformation and disinformation online, on matters ranging from Covid-19 to elections.  Lower courts have enjoined their efforts to work on misinformation campaigns via social media based on First Amendment concerns over chilling free speech.  The Supreme Court has paused that injunction pending its own decision.  

Why It Matters

There is precious little that the country agrees on at the moment, but the Supreme Court has historically been extremely protective of free speech matters.  The fact that the Court granted this hearing on a 6-3 vote indicates the level of interest, and that it is not purely a partisan decision. The role of social media in public discourse is, of course, something that the country is still trying to figure out for itself.  State legislatures around the country are trying to regulate children's access to social media because of arguments about adverse developmental effects on them.  The political atmosphere of the last decade and the known presence of cyber disinformation campaigns from state actors adverse to the US are additional factors in thinking through how “free” the speech on social media is, and ought to be.  The Supreme Court's decisions here are likely to reverberate for a generation.   

The lawsuit claims the Biden administration colluded with or coerced social media platforms in "open and explicit censorship programs," according to the lawsuit. They accused platforms of censoring posts about Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden's son; mail-in ballot voter fraud claims pushed by former President Donald Trump and his allies; and COVID-19-related theories suggesting the virus leaked from a Chinese lab, while casting doubt on the efficacy of mask mandates.


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