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Supreme Court pauses order banning Biden officials from coordinating with social media companies

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito issued a temporary pause on a lower-court order that restricted Biden administration officials from coordinating with social media companies.

Alito’s stay came in response to an emergency filing from the Justice Department Thursday that asked the court to block an earlier injunction that would have gone into effect on Mondaypreventing White House officials, the CDC, FBI and others from flagging so-called misinformation on social media platforms.

Alito granted the Justice Department’s request, delaying the order from taking effect until after Sept. 22. Alito also gave Republican attorneys general from Louisiana and Missouri, who brought the original lawsuit, until Sept. 20 to respond, Politico reported.

The Justice Department, in its emergency filing, claimed that were the lower court injunction to go into effect it would “impose grave and irreparable harms on the government and the public.” The Biden administration wants the Supreme Court to block the injunction while it appeals a Fifth Circuit decision that ruled against the government.

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION VIOLATED FIRST AMENDMENT OVER COVID-19 CONTENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA, COURT OF APPEALS RULES

Associate Justice Samuel Alito

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool, File)

“Under the injunction, the Surgeon General, the White House Press Secretary, and many other senior presidential aides risk contempt if their public statements on matters of policy cross the ill-defined lines drawn by the Fifth Circuit,” Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote in a court filing, per Politico. “CDC officials run the same risk if they accurately answer platforms’ questions about public health. And FBI agents risk being hauled into court if they flag content posted by terrorists or disinformation disseminated by covert malign foreign actors.”

In a unanimous ruling last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans said the Biden administration “ran afoul” of the First Amendment by trying to pressure social media platforms over controversial COVID-19 content. 

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Social media apps

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump and Biden administration officials worked closely with social media companies to monitor purportedly false information on their platforms and flag content for removal. Republicans have accused these officials of censorship.  (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

In its 75-page ruling, the appeals court panel, made up of two George W. Bush nominees and one Trump nominee, said that President Biden, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FBI and the surgeon general cannot “coerce” social media platforms to remove content it deems problematic. 

However, in its ruling, the court threw out language from a Louisiana judge in July who had ruled that the government could not contact social media platforms to urge them to take content down.

BIDEN LIKELY VIOLATED THE FIRST AMENDMENT DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC, FEDERAL JUDGE SAYS

The Supreme Court building

The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The ruling stems from a Louisiana lawsuit that accuses the Biden administration of threatening platforms like X, formerly Twitter, and Facebook, with antitrust lawsuits or changes to federal law that protect their liability and of silencing conservative voices. 

The lawsuit was filed by the states of Missouri and Louisiana, a conservative website owner, and four people opposed to the administration’s COVID-19 policy.

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The ruling said the administration “coerced the platforms to make their moderation decisions by way of intimidating messages and threats of adverse consequences” and “significantly encouraged the platforms’ decisions by commandeering their decision-making processes, both in violation of the First Amendment,” according to the Washington Post. 

Fox News’ Brie Stimson and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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