Did Government Overstep its Boundaries? Supreme Court Considers Case on Social Media Censorship

The U.S. Supreme Court today listened to arguments regarding allegations that the Biden administration infringed upon First Amendment rights by influencing social media platforms to censor content related to COVID-19 and the 2020 election, which officials tagged as misinformation.

Representing the U.S., Deputy Solicitor General Brian Fletcher defended the White House’s interaction with news media and social media companies concerning the content they promote. He argued that such communication doesn’t equate to governmental “coercion,” a practice forbidden by the Constitution. According reporting by the Epoch Times, Fletcher asserted the government was merely leveraging its “bully pulpit” to convince private entities, such as social media companies, to execute actions they are “lawfully allowed to do.”

Several justices probed the government’s definition of “coercion.” Justice Neil Gorsuch referenced President Joe Biden’s statement accusing social media companies of “killing people” with misinformation during the pandemic, questioning whether this constituted coercion. Fletcher maintained that Biden’s comments were more of an exhortation rather than a threat.

On the other side, Louisiana Solicitor General Benjamin Aguiñaga, representing the respondents, suggested that this case illuminates the “unrelenting pressure by the government to coerce social media platforms to suppress the speech of millions of Americans.” Aguiñaga asserted that the government manipulated its power to urge social media platforms to downplay information it wanted to suppress, leading them to regularly succumb to governmental influence.

Aguiñaga further argued that the government has no authority to instruct social media companies on what content to publish. He said the government’s only recourse in the face of genuinely false or misleading content should be to counteract it by promoting “true speech.”

Liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson asked Aguiñaga pointed questions about the extent to which the government can intervene to remove potentially dangerous content. However, Aguiñaga maintained that those scenarios differed from the current case.