(July 14, 2023 | Chicago, IL) — On Wednesday, the Liberty Justice Center called on the United States Supreme Court to hear an important case to protect social media users from government censorship. The Liberty Justice Center (LJC) filed an amicus brief in O’Handley v. Weber & Twitter arguing that algorithm-based censorship — which targets phrases and ideas and thereby indirectly silences individuals — is just as much a threat to the freedom of speech as traditional censorship, which targeted specific individuals to censor ideas.
Petitioner Rogan O’Handley is suing Twitter, arguing that the platform violated his First Amendment rights by suspending his account after a state official flagged one of his posts as “false or misleading.”
The legal issue is similar to one faced by LJC client Justin Hart, whose Facebook and Twitter posts about COVID-19 were censored in response to pressure by the Biden Administration. A federal district court recently ruled that he could not proceed with a First Amendment challenge because he presented no evidence that the government singled him out for censorship. That case is now on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which also rejected O’Handley’s claim.
“The government is no longer just trying to censor specific individuals. Now it is targeting disfavored viewpoints,” argued attorney James McQuaid. “Forcing censorship victims to prove that they were singled out ignores the reality of twenty-first-century technological advances and allows the government to censor people without the limitation the First Amendment should provide.”
Rather than expecting digital-age censorship victims, caught in the wide net cast by an algorithm, to prove that they were uniquely targeted and directly silenced as they might have been in days past, the Court should recognize algorithm-based censorship for the threat that it is and defend the First Amendment’s guarantee to free speech.
The Liberty Justice Center’s brief is available here.