Salem Radio Network News Saturday, September 30, 2023


Biden administration asks US Supreme Court block order curbing social media contacts

By Nate Raymond and John Kruzel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden’s administration on Thursday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put on hold an order restricting the government’s ability to encourage social media companies to remove content it considers misleading, including about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Justice Department asked the justices to stay a lower court’s decision finding that federal officials had likely violated the free speech protections of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment by coercing social media platforms into censoring certain posts.

The administration called Friday’s ruling by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “startling,” saying the decision would interfere with how the White House, FBI and health officials address matters of public concern and security.

The 5th Circuit had put its order on hold through Sept. 18 so the administration could seek the Supreme Court’s intervention. The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to further stay the order and said it would appeal it by Oct. 13.

Louisiana-based U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty in July had concluded U.S. officials had coerced Meta Platforms’ Facebook, Alphabet’s YouTube and X Corp, formerly Twitter, into suppressing posts related to COVID-19 and claims of fraud in the 2020 election won by Biden, a Democrat.

That holding came in a lawsuit by the Republican state attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana and a group of social media users and was upheld on Friday in a ruling by a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit.

The 5th Circuit panel, comprised of appointees of Republican presidents, agreed that officials likely violated the First Amendment by trying to suppress millions of social media postings by U.S. citizens.

The panel, though, vacated much of an injunction that Doughty issued restricting the administration’s communications with the companies, with the exception of a provision concerning coercion, which it narrowed.

The narrowed injunction applied to the White House, the surgeon general, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI, saying they could not “coerce or significantly encourage” the companies to remove content.

The Biden administration has argued that it asked social media companies to take down posts it considered to be harmful misinformation, but never forced them to do so.

(Reporting by John Kruzel in Washington and Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Will Dunham)


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