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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Friday extended a temporary block on an appeals court order that would have restricted the Biden administration from communicating with social media companies about COVID-19-related and other content the government deems “misinformation.”
Alito’s extension relates to a federal judge’s injunction issued July 4 in the Missouri et al. v. Biden et al. censorship case. The injunction was later upheld by the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which concluded federal officials likely violated the First Amendment by coercing social media platforms to censor certain posts.
However, on Sept. 14, Alito temporarily paused the 5th Circuit’s injunction. Friday’s ruling extends the pause until midnight Wednesday.
“We are watching carefully to see what action the Supreme Court takes on Wednesday,” said Kim Mack Rosenberg, Children’s Health Defense (CHD) general counsel.
“The decisions in this case should be important to every American who values free speech, a fundamental right in both the ability to transmit information and the ability to receive information. Government censorship is not a hallmark of democracy. This case and Kennedy & CHD, et al. v. Biden, et al., raise critically important issues of government coercion that Americans would be remiss to ignore.”
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, which sought to overturn the appeals court ruling, the injunction would make it difficult for officials at the White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the FBI to respond to online posts that pose a danger to public health or safety, Politico reported.
According to Reuters, extending the hold gives the court more time to consider the Biden administration’s request to block the injunction.
Friday’s extension is not an indication of how Alito will vote regarding the administration’s request, The Hill reported. Alito issued the order because he is assigned to oversee matters related to the 5th Circuit.
It is still unclear what will happen next. The court could issue an order denying a stay, which would let the appeals court injunction go into effect. Conversely, the court could issue a ruling that grants a much longer stay and indicates that it will consider the merits of the case with full briefing and argument.
The injunction stems from the Missouri v. Biden lawsuit, filed in May 2022 by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, alleging President Biden and other top administration officials “pressured and colluded” with Big Tech social media companies to censor and suppress information, including posts that contradicted the official government narrative on COVID-19 origins, vaccines and treatments.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., CHD founder and chairman on leave, and CHD levied similar allegations against key Biden administration officials, in a class action lawsuit filed in March.
In July, a federal judge consolidated the two lawsuits.
CHD and Kennedy on Sept. 20 filed an amicus brief opposing Alito’s Sept. 14 pause, arguing that the injunction upheld by the appeals court which aimed to stop government censorship of social media content should not be impeded.
CHD and Kennedy’s brief said:
“Companies like Facebook and Google decide every day for hundreds of millions of Americans what they are allowed to say, see, and hear. Because these are private companies, the Constitution ordinarily would not apply to their ‘content moderation’ decisions.
“But as we now know, and as the documentary record in this case demonstrates, the Federal Government has for several years been waging a systematic, clandestine, and highly effective campaign to get these companies to do what the government itself cannot: censor protected speech on the basis of its content and viewpoint.”
An amicus brief is filed by non-parties to a litigation to provide information that has a bearing on the issues and assist the court in reaching the correct decision. It comes from the Latin words amici curiae, which means “friend of the court.”