On February 8, the Liberty Justice Center and Justin Hart jointly filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to end the Biden Administration’s efforts to censor social media posts expressing views of which it disapproves in Murthy v. Missouri.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government collaborated closely with social media companies to develop content moderation policies to identify and remove content deemed “misinformation.” In July 2023, a Louisiana judge ruled that such content moderation policies violate the First Amendment and amount to a state-sponsored campaign to censor dissenting speech. In order to prevent further censorship and collusion, the judge issued an order prohibiting the federal government from communicating with social media companies about such content moderation policies.
When the Biden Administration initially appealed the order, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the judge’s ruling. In September 2023, however, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the order, allowing government officials to resume communication on such policies while litigation is ongoing.
In their amicus brief, the Liberty Justice Center and Justin Hart explain that the federal government’s role in social media censorship included content moderation training, designed to instruct the platforms on what to suppress, in addition to content moderation policies.
“It doesn’t matter if the state uses a proxy to restrict citizens’ speech—it’s censorship just the same,” said James McQuaid, Staff Attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “By training social media companies to silence disfavored viewpoints, the federal government is violating Americans’ right to free speech.”
The Liberty Justice Center is representing Justin Hart in Hart v. Facebook, a closely related case. Hart argues that his right to free speech was violated when the federal government directed social media companies to rewrite their algorithms and adjust their misinformation policies to censor posts that did not align with the government’s preapproved views on COVID-19.