Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Supreme Court tackles government coercion claims in social media and NRA cases

By 37ci3 Mar18,2024

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday will weigh the conditions under which the government can find ways to move from persuasion to compelling, hearing arguments in cases involving two contentious issues: problematic social media posts and gun rights.

First he will judge to hear the arguments Over concerns that the Biden administration’s contacts with social media companies, including efforts to remove content on topics such as Covid-19, constituted illegal coercion.

After that, the judges a similar case Alleging that a New York state official improperly pressured companies to end ties with the National Rifle Association, a leading gun rights group.

At issue is a practice known as “jawbone,” in which the government relies on private parties to do what it wants, sometimes with the implicit threat of negative consequences if demands are not met. Opponents of the government’s actions say each case violated the First Amendment to the Constitution, which protects free speech rights.

“Both cases are about how much the government is allowed to intrude on public discourse,” said Alex Abdo, a lawyer at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. While the government has a right to be involved, it “shouldn’t have too much of a hand in distorting our conversations,” he said.

Abdo group submitted a reference does not support either side in the social media feud, but wants clarification on the matter.

In the social media case, Republican attorneys general in Louisiana and Missouri, along with five social media users, filed a major lawsuit alleging that US government officials went too far in pressuring platforms to moderate content. Individual plaintiffs include opponents of the Covid-19 lockdown and Jim Hoft, owner of the right-wing website Gateway Pundit.

The lawsuit alleges various activities that took place in and before 2020, including efforts to prevent the spread of false information about Covid-19 and the presidential election. Donald Trump was president at the time, but the district court’s decision focused on actions taken by the government after President Joe Biden takes office in January 2021.

Last July, Louisiana-based Judge Terry Doughty barred officials from “any communication with social media companies that solicits, encourages, pressures, or in any way encourages the removal, removal, suppression, or reduction of content that contains protected free speech. .”

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans narrowed the scope of Doughty’s decision. But the appeals court still ordered the White House, the FBI and top health officials to “not coerce or substantially encourage” the disclosure. social media companies to remove content the Biden administration considers disinformation.

In October, the Supreme Court blocked an appeals court decision when it agreed to hear the case, with three conservative justices dissenting: Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.

NRA lawsuits against New York

In the NRA case, the group alleges that its free speech rights were violated by the actions of Maria Vullo, then head of the New York State Department of Financial Services.

Vullo’s office was investigating the insurance companies the NRA worked with to cover its members. The NRA alleged that Vullo made “back channel threats to stop serving the NRA” in meetings with insurance companies.

Speaking after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed, Vullo also urged insurance companies and banks to reconsider their relationships with gun rights groups.

The NRA is challenging a 2022 ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York that found Vullo’s actions did not constitute illegal conduct.

Vullo argued in his defense that it was part of his job to warn companies about the “reputational risk” of doing business with the NRA.

The case gained additional attention after the American Civil Liberties Union, which often supports liberal causes, signed on to represent the NRA. The ACLU reported on this While he disagrees with the NRA’s positions, he will defend the gun rights group’s right to speak.

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By 37ci3

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