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 March 19, 2024

Supreme Court is reportedly hesitant to block government interactions with social media

The majority of justices on the Supreme Court on Monday appeared to be quite dubious of arguments that federal government employees might be completely prohibited from interacting with social media companies.

A broad ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals prohibited officials from the White House, the FBI, the CDC, election analysts, and other agencies from interacting with social media sites was at issue, as NPR reported.

The three most conservative justices on the court, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch, would have permitted the decision to take effect, but the court is as yet unwilling to allow the Biden administration's unfettered interaction with the social platforms to go on.

Appeals Ruling

However, the appeals court's ruling remains on hold until the Supreme Court rules on the matter later in the term.

Two Republican-dominated states, Louisiana and Missouri, along with five individuals, allege that the government is consistently pressuring social media companies to take down what the government sees as false and misleading information.

According to the Biden administration, White House and agency representatives have every right to convince social media companies that they are disseminating inaccurate information about COVID-19, foreign meddling in elections, or even voting instructions.

Government relations with media firms

The justices most vocal about the lengthy history of government interactions with media firms were Brett Kavanaugh, a Trump appointee, and Elena Kagan, an Obama appointee.

"I had ... experienced government press people throughout the federal government who regularly call up the media and berate them," said Kavanaugh, though it was unclear if he was the berating target or perpetrator.

Justice Kagan acknowledged that he had filed complaints: "Like Justice Kavanaugh, I've had some experience encouraging press to suppress their own speech," she said.

"'You just wrote a story that's filled with factual errors. Here are the 10 reasons why you shouldn't do that again.' I mean, this happens literally thousands of times a day in the federal government."

Other Justices' Take

She and Justice Amy Coney Barrett speculated that the FBI may get in touch with social media companies and advise them that, although they may not be aware of it, they have been sharing content from a terrorist organization with the intention of recruiting covertly.

Benjamin Aguiñaga, the solicitor general for Louisiana, contended that government officials contacting social media businesses and even pushing for a specific course of action constituted illegal coercion.

That made Justice Barrett say this: "Just plain vanilla encouragement," she questioned, her voice rising in mild disbelief.

"Or does it have to be some kind of significant encouragement, because encouragement would sweep in an awful lot."

But Aguiñaga could only assert that applying pressure to print and other media outlets is not the same as applying pressure to social media platforms, without offering any further points of differentiation.

Written By:
Charlotte Tyler

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