Conservatives on the Supreme Court Clash over Ruling on President Biden’s Social Media Influence

Conservatives on the United States Supreme Court clashed over the ruling Wednesday in favor of President Joe Biden’s administration.

The Court ruled 6-3 that the plaintiffs, a group of social media users and conservative states, had no standing to sue the federal government over its attempts to influence social media giants’ censorship policies. 

Although conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett authored the court opinion, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch dissented.

Speaking for the Court, Barrett argued none of the plaintiffs had established they were under threat in the case.

“To establish standing, the plaintiffs must demonstrate a substantial risk that, in the near future, they will suffer an injury that is traceable to Government defendants and redressable by the injection they seek. Because no plaintiff has carried that burden, none has standing to seek a preliminary injunction,” wrote Barrett.

Alito blasted the majority court opinion in his written dissent, joined by Gorsuch and Thomas. He said the Court’s opinion “unjustifiably refuses” to intervene on behalf of the “victims” of Covid-era censorship.

“For months in 2021 and 2022, a coterie of officials at the highest levels of the Federal Government continuously harried and implicitly threatened Facebook with potentially crippling consequences if it did not comply with their wishes about the suppression of certain Covid-19-related speech,” wrote Alito.

“I assume that a fair portion of what social media users had to say about Covid-19 and the pandemic was of little wasting value. Some were undoubtedly untrue or misleading, and some may have been downright dangerous. But we now know that valuable speech was also suppressed. That is what inevitably happens when entry to the marketplace of ideas is restricted,” continued Alito.

He added, “These victims simply wanted to speak out on a question of the utmost public importance.”

Wednesday’s ruling overturns a lower court ruling that sided with the plaintiffs

The ruling Wednesday overturns a lower court ruling that sided with the plaintiffs and imposed an injunction against officials at the White House meeting with major tech companies. The injunction has now been lifted.

The injunction had applied to several federal agencies and officials — including some members of Biden’s Cabinet and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

In his dissent, Alito accused the Biden administration of orchestrating a “campaign to coerce Facebook” when it tried to moderate misinformation on the Covid-19 pandemic on social media.

Alito stated that the majority’s avoidance of addressing the merits of the issue of free speech “shirks” the Court’s duty, writing, “For months, high-ranking government officials placed unrelenting pressure on Facebook to suppress the free speech of Americans. Because the Court refuses unjustifiably to address this serious threat to the First Amendment, I respectfully dissent.”