Murthy v. Missouri

A Supreme Court case challenging the Biden administration’s alleged efforts to censor disinformation online

On December 22, 2023, the Knight Institute filed an amicus brief in Murthy v. Missouri, a Supreme Court case alleging that the Biden administration violated the First Amendment by pressuring—or “jawboning”—the social media companies into removing apparent misinformation relating to, among other things, public health and the U.S. elections in 2020.

The Fifth Circuit largely affirmed a district court ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, holding that the Biden administration had coerced or significantly encouraged the platforms to take down constitutionally protected speech.

The Institute’s amicus brief, filed in support of neither party, urges the Supreme Court to clarify the First Amendment limitations on government efforts to pressure speech intermediaries like the social media platforms into suppressing speech. Specifically, it argues that the Court should (1) make clear that jawboning claims should be evaluated under the test from Bantam Books, which has been interpreted to draw a line between coercion (unconstitutional) and persuasion (constitutional); (2) articulate the First Amendment interests at stake in jawboning cases, to guide courts in determining whether governmental conduct was coercive; and (3) resolve the case narrowly, without contorting jawboning doctrine in a prophylactic effort to address all of the many challenges created by the centralization of private power over public discourse.

Status: Argued on March 18, 2024.

Case Information: Murthy v. Missouri, No. 23-411 (Supreme Court).

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