Biden Admin Tries to Justify ‘Constant Pestering’ of Big Tech to Censor in New SCOTUS Case

March 20th, 2024 6:13 PM

An exchange between a U.S. Supreme Court justice and a U.S. Deputy Solicitor General unveiled the Biden administration's utter disregard for free speech. 

Justice Samuel Alito challenged U.S. Deputy Solicitor General Brian Fletcher, who argued the federal government’s case during oral arguments for the free speech case Murthy v. Missouri on Monday. While Fletcher seemed to argue that a person’s access to his First Amendment rights is partially dependent on circumstances, the justice had a different view. 

Alito accused the federal government of using “constant pestering” to coerce Facebook and other Big Tech platforms to censor content, noting that such behavior would be considered unacceptable if targeted at print media. Ultimately, Alito argued, “the federal government has got Section 230 and antitrust in its pocket,” so “these big clubs” can help it treat Facebook et al. “like they’re subordinates.”

Section 230 allows social media companies to be absolved from liability for what users post on their platforms. It can also be used, however, as a cudgel by government to pressure tech companies into censoring certain content. 

Alito not only highlighted the issue of antitrust and Section 230, but also the fact that the federal government seemed to argue that states do not have First Amendment rights. When pressed on the matter, Fletcher acknowledged the free speech rights of state officials and claimed that state attorneys general should not litigate on behalf of their own citizens’ free speech rights, since in this particular case,  “[the U.S. government] think[s] that’s an end run around the limit on … standing.”

When Alito challenged Fletcher as to whether print media is “on the same team as the federal government, partners,” as social media appeared to be, the U.S. Deputy Solicitor General made a disturbing argument. “So potentially in the context of an effort to get Americans vaccinated during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic,” he said. “There was a concern that Americans were getting their news about the vaccine from these platforms” and receiving “bad information.” 

Fletcher argued that even the social media companies recognized their “responsibility” to provide what the government deemed accurate information, and insisted that government-media partnerships are not unusual or problematic, despite the Constitutional emphasis on a free press. He did not address the fact that social media is essentially the public town square now and even seemingly argued that government pressure to censor information and violate free speech rights is permissible in a health emergency.

“The platforms [were] not being transparent about the scope of the problem,” Fletcher complained, trying to justify the “anger” government officials displayed toward tech executives whom they thought were not censoring enough.

Alito suggested that the idea that government officials can “call [media] up and curse them out and say … why don’t we be partners” and hypothetically allow government to edit content beforehand is problematic. Yet that would seem to have been the attitude of the federal government and particularly the Biden administration when dealing with Big Tech companies.

The complaint filed for Murthy v. Missouri cited MRC Free Speech America’s unique and exclusive research.

Conservatives are under attack. Contact your representatives and demand that Big Tech be held to account to mirror the First Amendment while providing transparency and an equal footing for conservatives. If you have been censored, contact us at the Media Research Center contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.