SCOTUS Lifts Order Restricting White House Efforts Against Misinformation

The Supreme Court on Friday blocked an injunction that would have restricted federal officials' ability to convince social media platforms to remove misinformation.

The vote was 6-3, with conservative justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas dissenting.

“Govern­ment censorship of private speech is antithetical to our democratic form of government, and therefore today’s deci­sion is highly disturbing,” Alito said in a written dissent.

The majority didn't issue an opinion.

The block will remain in effect until the Supreme Court can fully consider the dispute -- which likely will happen next year.

The injunction, issued by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, would have prohibited officials from the White House, Surgeon General's office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Centers for Disease Control, and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency from attempting to “coerce” or “significantly encourage” platforms to suppress speech covered by the First Amendment. The First Amendment generally protects misinformation as well as speech that's offensive.



The injunction stemmed from a lawsuit brought by attorneys general in Louisiana and Missouri, as well as several individuals who claimed their social media posts relating to COVID-19 policies and vaccines were suppressed due to pressure by the government.

The attorneys general and individuals alleged that federal officials violated the First Amendment by wrongly pressuring tech platforms to “censor disfavored speakers and viewpoints.”

U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty in Monroe, Louisiana, sided with the plaintiffs and issued a broad injunction prohibiting a numerous federal agencies and officials from attempting to persuade social media platforms to take down posts that are protected by the First Amendment.

The administration appealed Doughty's order to the 5th Circuit, which issued a narrower injunction. That order prohibited some officials, including White House staff, from attempting to “coerce” or “significantly” encourage platforms' decisions about content moderation, but didn't include language prohibiting the government from "urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing," decisions.

The Biden administration then asked the Supreme Court to block the 5th Circuit's order, arguing it wrongly restricted the government's ability to influence companies on questions of public importance.

The administration also disputed that it ever “coerced” platforms into removing speech.

"The record shows that platforms routinely declined to remove content flagged by federal officials,” the Justice Department wrote in its petition to the Supreme Court.

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