Sotomayor and Gorsuch warn that misinformation and intolerance can threaten democracy

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Sonia Sotomayor and Neil M. Gorsuch

U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Neil M. Gorsuch.

U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Neil M. Gorsuch warned of threats to U.S. democracy during a prerecorded Zoom event released Wednesday to promote civics information.

Both justices spoke of the need for civil discourse and tolerance in remarks referencing the political divide without specifically addressing the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot, report Bloomberg Law, Education Week, CNN and ABC News.

They also warned of misinformation that spreads on social media and divides society.

Sotomayor cited a study finding that false information spreads more quickly on Twitter than real news, often because of retweets.

“That’s frightening, isn’t it?” Sotomayor said. “People don’t learn about truthful statements as much as false statements through social media. That is a true threat to our national security.”

Sotomayor also spoke of “some cracks in our system” and “partisan, very heated debate” that can “turn into an awful thing and into something that destroys the fabric of our community if we don’t learn how to talk to each other.”

Sotomayor said democracy is at risk not only from foreign but also domestic enemies, according to the news coverage. Gorsuch also mentioned an internal threat.

“Democracies crumble from within,” Gorsuch said. “They crumble. And there becomes a hunger for a certain faction to take over because they’re intolerant of others. They think they know the right answer and others do not.”

Gorsuch said democracy is “not an automatic thing.”

“And our enemies know this even if we don’t,” Gorsuch said. “It is no surprise that a lot of the false misinformation spread on social media is deliberately spread by our enemies to sow disagreement internally in the country.”

Sotomayor said justices on the Supreme Court may passionately disagree, but they all fundamentally respect each other. When she disagrees, “I don’t start with impugning their motives. And I think a lot of misinformation today starts that way,” Sotomayor said.

The event, sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was titled “Civics as a National Security Imperative.” The video is available here.

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