Court hears case on Biden White House allegedly pressuring Twitter about COVID misinformation
June 19, 2023
Presidents use the bully pulpit to pressure private actors to do their will, whether John F. Kennedy to lower steel prices or Joe Biden to stop purported COVID-19 misinformation. Is that policy advocacy or unconstitutional coercion?
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in oral argument Thursday, grappled with the consequences of arguably censoring the executive branch to prevent it from indirectly censoring Twitter users and whether the Department of Health and Human Services could legally remedy whatever actions Twitter takes against users.
The three-judge panel, all appointed by Republican presidents, seemed receptive to the argument that Twitter’s sanctions against users got stiffer after public pressure from the White House, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and other federal officials.
That argument didn’t fly with U.S. District Judge Edmund Sargus, who concluded Twitter was already “ramp[ing] up” enforcement of its COVID misinformation policy before the feds allegedly “commandeered” it to censor theoretical cognitive scientist Mark Changizi, lawyer Michael Senger and stay-at-home father Daniel Kotzin.