Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Troubling Take on Free Speech

(HorizonPost.com) – The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Monday on the question of whether the federal government has the power to compel social media platforms to censor content, ABC News reported.

The case, Murthy v.Missouri, was brought by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana, who allege that the Biden administration coerced social media platforms to remove content it deemed harmful.

Two lower courts found for the plaintiff and ruled that the administration violated the First Amendment. The courts imposed an injunction preventing the government from coordinating with social media.

The Biden administration appealed the rulings arguing that its contact with social media platforms was aimed at protecting national security, public health, and election integrity.

During questioning, the justices appeared skeptical of strict restrictions on the government’s contact with social media platforms but they grappled with what kind of contact would be constitutionally permissible.

Most justices indicated by their questions that they did not believe that the administration went too far and several questioned whether the plaintiffs presented evidence that the government coerced social media companies to censor users.

Some of the justices appeared to support the idea of the federal government having the authority to step in to censor social media content in matters of national security or public safety.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson expressed concern that the plaintiff’s view of the First Amendment might hamstring the federal government “in significant ways.”

Jackson said some might argue that the government had a “duty” to protect citizens from harmful information online. She suggested that the plaintiff’s attorney was arguing that the government’s duty to protect citizens could not include “encouraging or pressuring platforms to take down harmful information.

The conservative justices expressed concern that the government was declaring itself the arbiter of truth as a way to use its authority to stifle free speech in the digital public square.

Conservative Justice Samuel Alito questioned why the federal government could treat a social media company “like its subordinate” and badger a platform into taking “certain actions.”

The Court is expected to deliver its decision in the case by the end of June.

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