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Utah Attorney General backs lawsuit accusing feds of censoring conservative views on social media

The case is set to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in March

By Kyle Dunphey - Utah News Dispatch | Feb 19, 2024

Spenser Heaps, Utah News Dispatch

The office of the Utah Attorney General at the Capitol in Salt Lake City is pictured on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024.

Utah is one of several states accusing federal officials of censuring content on social media related to the COVID-19 vaccine, mask mandates and “election-integrity issues.”

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes signed onto an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Murthy v. Missouri, which accuses the Biden Administration of colluding with Meta, Youtube and Twitter (the platform now referred to as X) to suppress conservative views on several highly controversial issues.

It’s the latest in almost two years of litigation from Missouri and Louisiana, which sued a number of government officials from the White House, FBI and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2022.

A Louisiana judge later granted a preliminary injunction preventing, to some extent, a number of federal officials and departments from meeting with social media companies promoting the “removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.”

A Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in September watered down the injunction, but did find that federal officials “likely” coerced social media companies, violating the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case on March 18 after a petition from the federal government.

The brief signed on by Reyes this month asks the court to affirm the Fifth Circuit ruling. In it, the states argue “federal officials engaged in a years-long campaign to influence the content-moderation decisions of social media platforms by applying ‘unrelenting pressure’ to those platforms to change content-moderation policies to allow easier suppression of disfavored speech.”

The alleged censorship impacts states in two ways, the brief argues — at times, posts from state agencies were censored on social media in response to federal pressure. And it interfered with the states’ ability to hear from and engage with “their citizens’ views on matters of enormous public importance,” the states claim.

Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and the Republican-led Arizona Legislature all signed on to the brief.

Utah News Dispatch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news source covering government, policy and the issues most impacting the lives of Utahns.


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