The Institute for Free Speech has filed an amicus brief in Murthy v. Missouri, formerly known as Missouri v. Biden, urging the Supreme Court to establish a clear, robust prohibition against government officials privately soliciting the removal or suppression of lawful political speech.
The brief asks the Court to craft such a rule after Biden Administration officials flagged online content for removal and asked social media companies to deplatform users and downgrade certain speech it deemed “misinformation,” particularly speech related to discussions of vaccines and COVID-19.
“The Constitution protects private actors from censorship—it does not protect the government from criticism,” the brief explains. “If the First Amendment means anything, it must prevent this kind of interference in the marketplace of political ideas.”
The brief urges the Court to “hold that the government violates the First Amendment when it privately solicits a third party to remove another person’s lawful political speech from the public discourse.” Such a bright-line rule “prevents most of the problematic jawboning” that interferes with political speech and “gives the First Amendment the ‘breathing space’ it needs ‘to survive,'” the brief notes, quoting Citizens United v. FEC.
The rule would prevent improper government interference in political debate on private online platforms, but it would do so without jeopardizing legitimate government speech interests.
The Institute also urges the Court to reject the administration’s argument that the “government speech” doctrine permits public officials to secretly induce social media platforms to censor opposing political viewpoints. The brief highlights that the Court has never recognized a First Amendment right of government officials to suppress the lawful speech of private citizens.
To read the amicus brief in the case Murthy v. Missouri, click here.