Alliance Defending Freedom Argues for Injunction Against Government in Social Media Case

In February, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold a lower court ruling that found the Biden administration violated the First Amendment by pressuring social media companies to censor certain viewpoints.

The brief was filed in support of the plaintiffs in the case Murthy v. State of Missouri, which challenges actions by Biden officials to get companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to censor views dissenting from the administration’s stand on cultural issues like climate change, abortion, transgender issues, COVID-19 policies, and more.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals previously ruled that the administration’s contacts with social media platforms amounted to government censorship, violating constitutional free speech protections.

ADF’s brief agrees, arguing the government cannot circumvent the First Amendment by using third parties like Facebook and YouTube to restrict disfavored speech.

According to Alliance Defending Freedom, its client, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, has faced censorship due to its anti-abortion views. The group says social media policies banning “hate speech” and “misinformation” are vague and allow viewpoints to be suppressed.

What is Alliance Defending Freedom?

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, marriage and family, and the sanctity of life.

Alliance Defending Freedom Church Alliance and Alliance Defending Freedom Ministry Alliance, under the umbrella of Alliance Defending Freedom, offer legal defense services to churches, ministries, and other faith-based organizations. This support equips them to address potential legal challenges such as lawsuits, subpoenas, or complaints that might impede their ability to operate in accordance with their religious beliefs.

In the brief, Alliance Defending Freedom argues that federal officials violated the First Amendment rights of the plaintiffs by coercing and pressuring social media companies to censor certain viewpoints.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys contend that despite the fact that the Biden administration “cannot abridge free speech” under the First Amendment, they engaged in an “unrelenting pressure campaign” on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to suppress disfavored opinions on topics like COVID-19, climate change, and abortion.

The brief states the administration’s actions led to “millions of protected free speech postings by American citizens” being suppressed.

It accuses officials of using both public threats and private contacts to force platforms into silencing dissenting voices.

“The government cannot abridge free speech,” the brief stated. “A private party, on the other hand, bears no such burden—it is ‘not ordinarily constrained by the First Amendment.’ That changes, though, when a private party is coerced or significantly encouraged by the government to such a degree that its ‘choice’—which if made by the government would be unconstitutional—’ must in law be deemed to be that of the State,” ADF attorneys argued.

ADF attorneys argued that this federally coerced censorship violated the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights and that an injunction should be granted to prevent further interference.

In a statement on Alliance Defending Freedom Media, ADF Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President of Corporate Engagement Jeremy Tedesco said, “The First Amendment guarantees that all Americans can express viewpoints and ideas without fear of government punishment—including when it’s carried out by a third party.”

“When the government hides behind third parties like Facebook and YouTube to pick winners and losers on matters of public concern, we all lose. It’s wrong when Silicon Valley censors speech, and when the government pressures these companies to do so, it also violates the First Amendment,” he added.

The legal filing comes as technology companies’ content moderation policies continue to draw scrutiny.

Tedesco said he hopes a Supreme Court decision backing the lower court ruling will serve as a “much-needed wake-up call for the major corporations we depend on every day. Those corporations should not be complicit in violating the free speech rights of everyday citizens.”

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