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US Supreme Court skeptical of Louisiana challenge to White House’s fight against misinformation

US Supreme Court skeptical of Louisiana challenge to White House’s fight against misinformation
Supreme Court justices seemed skeptical Monday about the effort to restrict White House contact with social media companies about misinformation.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court seemed likely Monday to side with the Biden administration in a dispute with Louisiana and Missouri, a pair of Republican-led states whose leaders say the federal government goes too far to combat controversial social media posts on topics including COVID-19 and election security.
The justices seemed broadly skeptical during nearly two hours of arguments over whether officials in the Democratic administration lean so hard on social media platforms that they unconstitutionally squelch conservative points of view.
Lower courts have sided with the states, but the Supreme Court blocked those rulings while it considers the issue.
Several justices said they were concerned that common interactions between government officials and the platforms could be affected by a ruling for the states.
In one example, Justice Amy Coney Barrett expressed surprise when Louisiana Solicitor General J. Benjamin Aguiñaga questioned whether the FBI could call Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) to encourage them to take down posts that maliciously released someone’s personal information without permission, the practice known as doxxing.
“Do you know how often the FBI makes those calls?” Barrett asked, suggesting they happen frequently.
The court’s decision in this and other social media cases could set standards for free speech in the digital age. Last week, the court laid out standards for when public officials can block their social media followers. Less than a month ago, the court heard arguments over Republican-passed laws in Florida and Texas that prohibit large social media companies from taking down posts because of the views they express.
The cases over state laws and the one that was argued Monday are variations on the same theme, complaints that the platforms are censoring conservative viewpoints.
The states argue that White House communications staffers, the surgeon general, the FBI and the U.S. cybersecurity agency are among those who coerced changes in online content on social media platforms.
“It’s a very, very threatening thing when the federal government uses the power and authority of the government to block people from exercising their freedom of speech,” Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill said in a video her office posted online.
The administration responds that none of the actions the states complain about come close to problematic coercion. The states “still have not identified any instance in which any government official sought to coerce a platform’s editorial decisions with a threat of adverse government action,” wrote Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer. Prelogar wrote that states also can’t “point to any evidence that the government ever imposed any sanction when the platforms declined to moderate content the government had flagged — as routinely occurred.”
The companies themselves are not involved in the case.
Free speech advocates say the court should use the case to draw an appropriate line between the government’s acceptable use of the bully pulpit and coercive threats to free speech.

web-intern@dakdan.com

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