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Sean D. Reyes
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AGO Challenges Social Media Censorship

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States in Murthy v. Missouri. The brief, led by the State of Montana, supports a challenge to the federal government’s recent censoring of privately held opinions on online platforms.

The States of Missouri and Louisiana sued the federal government over allegations that it “engaged in a broad pressure campaign designed to coerce social-media companies into suppressing speakers, viewpoints, and content disfavored by the government.” For purposes of this challenge, much of the federal government’s censorship took place during the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 presidential election. Both the district court and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of the States, leading to the appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation’s high court will hear oral arguments in the matter on March 18.

In their brief, the attorneys general argue that “the States have Article III standing,” that “the standing inquiry is relaxed in the First Amendment context,” and that “the States have standing to defend their sovereign and quasi-sovereign interests.”

The coalition of States writes, “Because individual users were often unaware that their speech was being artificially suppressed by Petitioners, lawsuits to vindicate their interests will be rare. The district court found the social media companies, at the behest of the federal government, used ‘spectrum of levers’ to conceal their censorship efforts, including ‘de-boosting’ and preventing content sharing through ‘friction.’ Petitioners veiled their actions in two ways. First, government actors directed social media employees to silence protected expression through private channels. Second, social media companies artificially limited the reach of protected expression in manners that hid the censorship.”

Joining Utah and Montana are the States of Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and the Arizona Legislature.

Read the brief here.