Skip to content
Breaking News Alert Republicans Say Biden 'Not Fit To Serve,' Needs To Step Down

Anti-Free Speech Supreme Court Majority Mocks Concept Of Self-Censorship In Shocking Ruling

Justice Barrett’s ruling is based in part on skepticism of the prevalence of self-censorship, which is actually widespread.


Supreme Court justices mocked the common concept of self-censorship Wednesday in the majority opinion for Murthy v. Missouri, wherein the nine-judge panel ruled the plaintiffs lacked standing.

In the 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court punted on the constitutional question of government-pressured censorship of private internet companies. Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote in the majority opinion that “to obtain forward-looking relief” case plaintiffs “must establish a substantial risk of future injury that is traceable to the Government defendants and likely to be redressed by an injunction against them.” The justice, however, added the plaintiffs’ arguments for standing were unpersuasive.

“First, they argue they suffer ‘continuing, present adverse effects’ from their past restrictions, as they must now self-censor on social media,” Barrett wrote. “But the plaintiffs ‘cannot manufacture standing merely by inflicting harm on themselves based on their fears of hypothetical future harm that is not certainly impending.”

“As we explained,” Barrett continued, “the plaintiffs have not shown that they are likely to face a risk of future censorship traceable to the defendants.”

Barrett argued plaintiffs were already incentivized to self-censor by the major companies’ pre-existing content moderation policies, “so it is ‘difficult to see how’ the plaintiffs’ self-censorship ‘can be traced to’ the defendants.”

In other words, Justice Barrett’s ruling is based in part on skepticism of the prevalence of self-censorship to begin with, let alone censorship provoked by government campaigns to suppress dissident speech. What the plaintiffs made clear throughout the case, however, is that social media websites took the direction for their content moderation policies from federal authorities engaged in a surrogate censorship program.

Federalist Editor Joy Pullmann reported last summer that White House officials, for example, “treated internet monopolies like their subordinates.” Pullmann pulled out an email exchange between White House digital director Rob Flaherty and Facebook in which Flaherty sent irate messages demanding to know why the company did not comply with administration requests.

“Joe Biden even threatened to hold [Mark] Zuckerberg criminally liable for not running Facebook the way Biden wanted,” Pullmann reported.

And if there’s any doubt about the presence of self-censorship, just ask today’s college students if they censor themselves — whether it be inside or outside of the classroom. In October, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Senior Fellow Samuel Abrams reported on a survey from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) of more than 55,000 students across 254 institutions that found “alarming” levels of self-censorship.

“Half of all students, both men and women alike, report occasionally or more frequently engaging in self-censorship,” Abrams wrote. “This phenomenon cuts across the divide between private and public institutions, affecting a majority of students regardless of the type of school they attend.”

“One of the most insidious intended effects of government censorship is self-censorship,” wrote Federalist CEO Sean Davis in a post on X. “By punishing others for what they say and believe, tyrannical governments terrorize their citizens’ own thoughts by creating every incentive for them to just be quiet.”

George Orwell wrote about how tyrants exploit censorship as a tool to provoke self-censorship among the subservient classes.

“The chief danger to freedom of thought and speech at this moment is not the direct interference of … any official body,” he wrote. “If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion.”

But public opinion is being manipulated by U.S. government censorship — censorship perpetrated by private websites that serve as proxy moderators for authorities who are eager to control the flow of information.

Writing the dissenting opinion in Murthy v. Missouri Wednesday, Justice Samuel Alito warned Americans would come to regret the continuation of an unconstitutional censorship regime.

Access Commentsx