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.