For seemingly giving the Biden administration a “green light to use heavy-handed tactics,” Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito excoriated the majority’s “highly disturbing” ruling on social media censorship.
On Friday, the highest court in the land threw caution to the wind as a lower court’s injunction in the case of Missouri v. Biden was stayed while cert was granted for the case that would be heard as Murthy v. Missouri. The 6-3 decision that once more cleared the path for President Joe Biden’s officials to lean on or work hand in hand with Big Tech to allegedly censor or suppress content was checked by Alito whose dissent challenged the lack of evidence to support the decision of his peers.
Joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch in the dissent, Alito wrote, “This case concerns what two lower courts found to be a ‘coordinated campaign’ by high-level federal officials to suppress the expression of disfavored views on important public issues.”
In practice, the now stayed injunction had stopped Biden officials from “either ‘coerc[ing]’ social media companies to engage in such censorship or ‘active[ly] control[ling]’ those companies’ decisions about the content posted on their platforms.”
“Today, however, a majority of the Court, without undertaking a full review of the record and without any explanation, suspends the effect of that injunction until the Court completes its review of this case,” the justice detailed, “an event that may not occur until late in the spring of next year. Government censorship of private speech is antithetical to our democratic form of government, and therefore today’s decision is highly disturbing.”
Alito described the circumstances by which then-Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R), who’ve since gone on to become senator and governor-elect respectively, had used “extensive findings” to prove the threat of irreparable harm from the federal government, in particular agencies within the executive branch, in allegedly controlling the spread of information on such matters as COVID-19, the Hunter Biden laptop story and election integrity.
By contrast, the justice contended that no such “‘clear showing’ of irreparable harm” was made in opposing the injunction and that the “mere ‘possibility'” presented through hypothetical statements did not stand as “concrete proof.”
“Moreover, it does not appear that any of the Government’s hypothetical communications would actually be prohibited by the injunction,” continued the dissent that made clear Biden was not subject to the injunction and that the lower court ruling did not prevent any government official from exercising their own First Amendment rights responsibly.
“The injunction applies only when the Government crosses the line and begins to coerce or control others’ exercise of their free-speech rights. Does the Government think that the First Amendment allows Executive Branch officials to engage in such conduct?” posited Alito. “Does it have plans for this to occur between now and the time when this case is decided?”
“Despite the Government’s conspicuous failure to establish a threat of irreparable harm, the majority stays the injunction and thus allows the defendants to persist in committing the type of First Amendment violations that the lower courts identified,” he contended of the ruling led by Chief Justice John Roberts.
Expected to be a landmark case on the First Amendment, Alito concluded Friday, “At this time in the history of our country, what the Court has done, I fear, will be seen by some as giving the Government a green light to use heavy-handed tactics to skew the presentation of views on the medium that increasingly dominates the dissemination of news.”
“This is most unfortunate.”
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