Justice Ketanji Brown-Jackson Backs Gov’t Censorship: ‘First Amendment Hamstringing Gov’t in Significant Ways’

by State Brief

Supreme Court to decide on whether government can coerce social media companies to censor content it doesn’t like, including dissenting views on COVID-19 and election integrity.

Liberal Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown-Jackson appeared to support government censorship during oral arguments on Monday, claiming her “biggest concern” is the First Amendment “hamstringing” the government.

The Supreme Court heard arguments on the Biden Justice Department’s appeal of the Murthy v. Missouri case, where numerous states accused Democratic officials in the Biden administration of pressuring social media companies to unconstitutionally censor conservative viewpoints on topics like COVID-19 and election integrity.

The states argued that White House communications staffers, the surgeon general, the FBI and the U.S. cybersecurity agency (CISA) are among those who coerced social media platforms to censor content.

At one point, Brown-Jackson claimed that certain situations may warrant government censorship.

“Whether or not the government can do this…depends on the application of our First Amendment jurisprudence,” she said. “There may be circumstances in which the government could prohibit certain speech on the internet or otherwise.”

She continued, “My biggest concern is that your view has the First Amendment hamstringing the government in significant ways.”

Brown-Jackson doesn’t appear to grasp that the First Amendment’s entire point, along with the Bill of Rights, is to curb government overreach.

Conservative Justice Samuel Alito noted as much during the session, warning that coordinating between the federal government and Big Tech companies could imperil free speech.

“When I see the White House and Federal officials repeatedly saying that Facebook and the Federal government should be partners…regular meetings, constant pestering…Wow, I cannot imagine Federal officials taking that approach to print media.”

“If you did that to them, what do you think the reaction would be?” he asked, adding that Section 230 has given the government carte blanche to treat social media companies like “subordinates.”

Unfortunately, other conservative Justices like Amy Coney Barrett and Chief Justice John Roberts appeared to side with the Biden administration, claiming if restrictions are tight on the government’s ability to censor, it could open the door to potential harm caused by content about war, terrorist activity or dangerous hypothetical viral challenges that teens sometimes partake in.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) summed up the stakes of this historic case as one that could “redefine our free speech.”

“Today, SCOTUS heard Murthy v. Missouri, the most consequential free speech case in U.S. history. This isn’t just about social media companies; it’s a critical examination of government overreach,” Paul wrote on X.

“The Biden administration and FBI’s efforts to influence Big Tech into silencing dissent tramples on the 1st Amendment. Our focus must be on preventing government censorship, not compelling private entities to act as censors. This case could redefine our free speech.”

A decision in Murthy v. Missouri is expected by early summer.

Listen to the full oral arguments:

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