Did Feds Go too Far in Censoring Online Content About COVID? The Supreme Court Will Decide

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case with far-reaching consequences for online free speech and content moderation. The issue is social media’s kowtowing to the federal government’s efforts to combat “misinformation” about COVID-19, the government’s response to the pandemic, and the vaccines developed to fight it. 

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Did the government illegally coerce private companies to do its bidding and censor online content it disagreed with? Did it use its power in an impermissible way to advance its ideas?

In hindsight, there’s no question the answer is “yes” to both questions. But it’s a far trickier argument to make when taking into account what was known about the virus at the time and what was believed the proper course of action to combat the pandemic.

“There’s always a line-drawing problem,” said Tufts University law professor Michael Glennon. “Inevitably, you’ve got to make very difficult judgments about when enough is enough.”

When it comes to the First Amendment, “line drawing” is a fraught proposition. Social media companies are, after all, private concerns. If they want to censor someone for any reason, it’s hard to see how the court could disagree with that fundamental right.

But social media companies were being pressured by the United States government to stifle opinions in the name of squashing “misinformation.” As the Supreme Court will hear, much of the information that was eventually censored turned out to be not only true but helpful.

Wall Street Journal:

The case, with arguments scheduled for Monday, centers on a 2022 lawsuit led by the Republican attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana, which alleges that the federal government engaged in censorship under the guise of combating misinformation.

“Defendants’ conduct fundamentally transforms online discourse and renders entire viewpoints on great social and political questions virtually unspeakable on social media, the modern public square,” the states wrote in a brief to the high court.

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The left believes any attempt to hinder those looking to block “disinformation” from the internet to be part of the problem.

“The people that benefit from the spread of disinformation have effectively silenced many of the people that would try to call them out,” said Kate Starbird, a professor at the University of Washington and an “expert” in sussing out “disinformation.” 

That’s utter and complete nonsense. No one on the left has ever been “silenced” for calling out what they see as “disinformation.” Have they been criticized for trying to stifle debate and free speech? Absolutely yes.

This whole idea of the government “moderating” speech on the internet makes my skin crawl. If someone wants to post that COVID-19 was a government plot to control people, we’re all big enough to dismiss or accept that argument on our own. We don’t need the government telling us whether it’s truth or fiction.

That’s because a lot of what the government ended up urging social media companies to censor was, in fact, alternative viewpoints that turned out to be accurate and true. 

They allege that the government’s coercion was never explicit, and instead was exercised through veiled threats of new regulatory liabilities and antitrust enforcement. The suit also alleges speech suppression beyond pandemic-related issues. For example, the states allege that the Federal Bureau of Investigation led online platforms to believe that a New York Post exposé about Hunter Biden published weeks before the November 2020 election was based on Russian disinformation when it knew it wasn’t.

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“Nice social media company, ya got there. Be a shame if sumpin’ happened to it.”

Part of the problem is that “truth” is rarely objective. The left believes it has a corner on “objective truth,” but the reality is the notion of “truth” is informed by many things, environmental and ideological among them. 

If it’s the “truth” you seek, read the Bible. Otherwise, trust not in the words of politicians and politicos from either side. Seek as much information as possible on your own and use the good sense the Lord gave you to reach your own conclusions.  

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