Today, the Institute filed an amicus brief in Murthy v. Missouri, a Supreme Court case alleging that the federal government pressured social media companies to suppress users’ speech on their platforms—a practice often referred to as “jawboning.”

Murthy is the first Supreme Court case to address the constitutional framework that applies in jawboning cases since the Court’s 1963 decision in Bantam Books v. Sullivan. In Murthy, social media users and two states sued Biden administration officials and several federal agencies, alleging that government communications with major platforms regarding disinformation violated the First Amendment.

The Institute’s brief, filed in support of neither party, urges the 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.

A decision in Murthy v. Missouri is expected in June 2024.

Read the Institute's brief here.