Amy Howe for SCOTUSBlog:
The Biden administration on Thursday afternoon asked the Supreme Court to temporarily block a lower court’s order that would limit its ability to communicate with social media companies over content moderation policies. U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar told the justices that if the “unprecedented” order is allowed to stand, it would put a Louisiana district judge in charge of overseeing the executive branch’s communications with social media companies.
Shortly after receiving the government’s request, Justice Samuel Alito — who handles emergency requests from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit — put the lower court’s order on hold until the end of the day on Friday, Sept. 22, to give the justices time to rule on the request. Alito also directed the plaintiffs to file a response to the government’s application by 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 20.
The dispute arises from the federal government’s efforts to combat the spread of misinformation on social media by flagging content for social media platforms and urging them to remove that content. The lawsuit was filed by Republican attorneys general in Missouri and Louisiana, as well as four individual plaintiffs whose social media posts on controversial topics such as the COVID-19 lab-leak theory and vaccine side effects were removed or downgraded. They argued that the government “coerced, threatened, and pressured social-media platforms to censor” them, which violated the First Amendment.
The federal government countered that it had only sought to “mitigate the hazards of online misinformation” by flagging content that violated the platforms’ own policies.