- The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) on Tuesday heard oral arguments in two cases — O'Connor-Ratcliff v. Garnier and Lindke v. Freed — related to liability for public officials who block followers on their personal social media accounts.1
- O’Connor-Ratcliff v. Garnier centers around Michelle O’Connor and TJ Zane — two elected members of a California school board — who used their personal Facebook and Twitter accounts to reach the public.2
- They blocked two parents who left critical comments and replies to posts, which the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled violated the parents’ free speech rights.3
- Similarly, in the second case, the city manager of Port Huron, Michigan James Freed blocked resident Kevin Lindke from a Facebook page after he made comments critical of the city’s COVID-19 policies.4
- A federal district court and the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled Freed’s social media choices were not state actions and didn’t violate Lindke’s rights.5
- This represents the first chance SCOTUS has had to rule on this type of case since it dismissed challenges related to then-Pres. Donald Trump’s blocking of users leaving critical comments on X (then Twitter) two years ago.6
- Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by NBC. Elected officials shouldn’t have to treat all their social media interactions as official business. And, in turn, if they’re not using a social media platform to conduct government actions, it’s their First Amendment right to block anyone they choose. This is a nonpartisan issue, as the Biden administration is taking the same position as Trump supporters.
- Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by The New York Times. Democratic rights must be protected as much online as in reality. In both realms, the First Amendment exists to protect citizens from government censorship and to prevent the government from suppressing dissent. Blocking citizens online is the same as silencing someone at a public meeting or a government proceeding. SCOTUS should find for the plaintiffs in both these cases.