Newsletter: Free Speech, Government, and Misinformation on Social Media Platforms

Mock Trial: Murthy v. Missouri - Free speech, Government and Misinformation on Social Media Platforms

This week:

  • A new Mock Trial: Did the government’s request for social media companies to remove certain posts suppress free speech?
  • A closer look at who should be responsible for restricting false information online
  • Your Sunday reading list



Free speech, misinformation, charges of government coercion, social media platforms: all part of a highly anticipated Supreme Court decision will be handed down any day now. It will define the way forward for the role of these entities when it comes to the proliferation of misleading information that could impact public health, national security, and election integrity.

In our Mock Trial format, we invite two prominent First Amendment lawyers to make their arguments and give a behind-the-scenes look at what was argued in the case Murthy v. Missouri. They debate the limits of free speech, limits on government action, and what should be done with misinformation on social media platforms.

The Facts of the Case: During the COVID pandemic, the U.S. government requested that social media companies remove posts containing misinformation related to COVID and the integrity of the 2020 election. The states of Missouri and Louisiana, along with five individuals, filed a lawsuit accusing government officials of censoring the free speech present within those posts and thus violating the First Amendment.

The State of Play: Social Media and the News

  • 30% of Americans use Facebook to get their news, making it the most popular social media platform for news consumption.
  • According to a survey from UNESCO and Ipsos, 64% of Americans think social media is the top source of disinformation and “fake news”.
  • A Pew Research Center survey showed that 83% of Americans believe social media sites actively censor political viewpoints they find objectionable.
  • 58% of American adults are concerned that AI usage will increase the spread of false information during the 2024 presidential election.


So, did the government violate the First Amendment when they made their requests to social media companies? Give your verdict as the jury on our website and listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts and YouTube. As always, let us know what you think.




Charles “Chip” Miller

Senior Attorney at the Institute for Free Speech



Rylee Sommers-Flanagan

Founder and Executive Director of Upper Seven Law



Nina Jankowicz

CEO of The American Sunlight Project; Former Executive Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Disinformation Governance Board



Matt Taibbi

Author and Journalist; Writer and Publisher of Racket News



Eric Schurenberg

Business Journalist and Media Executive; Founder of the Alliance for Trust in Media



John Donvan

Host and Moderator-in-Chief



Who should be responsible to restrict — and protect — online information?




MOCK TRIAL: Free Speech, Government, and Misinformation on Social Media Platforms


PLAINTIFF: Charles “Chip” Miller

“Political speech is at the core of our First Amendment. A bright line preventing the government from using its outside voice to suppress dissenting views is necessary to give the First Amendment the breathing room it needs for democracy to survive. In this case, the federal government targeted a specific lawful political speech that it disfavored, and it deployed an extensive clandestine plan to remove that speech from public view and debate. If the First Amendment means anything, it must prevent this kind of interference with the marketplace of ideas.”


DEFENDENT: Rylee Sommers-Flanagan

“The government did not coerce social media companies to remove content in violation of the First Amendment. Social media platforms make and control their own media content policies. Companies ignored FBI flags roughly half of the time. The federal government took no adverse action in response to this refusal and continued to communicate with social media companies openly. The government must be able to communicate information, to use the bully pulpit to share its knowledge, to urge action, and to participate in public debate.”





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