The Supreme Court on Friday gave the Biden administration some added breathing room by extending a hold on a lower court ruling that had forbidden the White House and FBI from pressuring social media companies to censor Americans’ posts.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. issued the order, known as an “administrative stay,” which halts the judge’s ruling for one more week. He has kept the ruling on hold since Sept. 14 as the case has developed in the lower courts.
The case developed into a significant test of government power and social media after U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty delivered a serious legal spanking to the administration, finding that the government engaged in a “widespread censorship campaign” to enlist social media to suppress opposing views on the coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 presidential election.
The challenge was brought by the states of Missouri and Louisiana and some individuals who said social media companies, doing the government’s bidding, limited the reach of posts that espoused some conservative-leaning viewpoints.
Judge Doughty, in his initial July 4 injunction, had singled out the White House, the surgeon general, the Health and Human Services Department, the State Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Census Bureau, the Homeland Security Department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the FBI.
He barred them from pressuring, meeting with or otherwise entangling themselves with social media companies for the purpose of trying to limit viewpoints.
An appeals court narrowed the ruling to apply only to the White House, surgeon general, CDC and FBI, and to bar only attempts to threaten or coerce social media companies to suppress or delete posts.