On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Biden administration in Murthy v. Missouri, dismissing a Republican challenge seeking to prevent the government from communicating with social media platforms to address alleged misinformation.

In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that the states and users challenging the interactions had not suffered direct injury and thus lacked standing to sue.

As one of several cases this term examining the First Amendment’s appplication to technology platforms, the decision left unresolved fundamental questions about the limits the First Amendment places on the government’s influence over technology companies, which serve as key gatekeepers of information.

The case arose from a surge of communications from administration officials urging platforms to remove posts on topics such as the COVID-19 vaccines and election fraud claims.

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In response, the Republican attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana, three doctors, the owners of a right-wing website known for promoting conspiracy theories and an activist alleging that Facebook suppressed her posts about supposed Covid-19 vaccine side effects, filed a lawsuit.

Judge Terry Doughty of the Federal District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, a Donald Trump appointee, upheld the plaintiff’s argument and issued a 10-art injunction.

The injunction prohibited officials from “threatening, pressuring or coercing social media companies in any manner to remove, delete, suppress, or reduce posted content of posting containing protected free speech.”

A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, consisting of two George Bush appointees and one Trump appointee, slightly narrowed the injunction.

However, in an unsigned opinion, the panel stated that administration officials had become excessively entangled with the platforms or used threats to prompt action. They issued an injunction prohibiting many officials from coercing social media companies to remove content protected by the First Amendment.

In her majority opinion, Justice Amy Coney Barrett stated, “The plaintiffs, without any concrete link between their injuries and the defendant’s conduct, ask us to conduct a review of the yearslong communications between dozens of federal officials, across different agencies, with different social media platforms, about different topics.”

“This court’s standing doctrine prevents us from exercising such general legal oversight of the other branches of government,” Barrett wrote.

She identified two main issues with the plaintiff’s argument. First, social media companies were independent actors already committed to addressing misinformation independently of government encouragement. Second, she emphasized that regardless of past events, particularly during the pandemic, plaintiffs seeking an injunction must demonstrate a credible threat of future harm, which the plaintiffs failed to do.

The ruling marked a significant victory for the Biden administration, which welcomed the decision.

“The Supreme Court’s decision is the right one, and it helps ensure the Biden administration can continue our important work with technology companies to protect the safety and security of the American people,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

Justice Samuel Alito was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch in the dissent.

“For months, high-ranking government officials placed unrelenting pressure on Facebook to suppress Americans’ free speech. Because the court unjustifiably refuses to address this serious threat to the First Amendment, I respectfully dissent,” wrote Alito.

“If the lower court’s assessment of the voluminous record is correct, this is one of the most important free speech cases to reach this court in years,” he added.

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