Supreme Court Takes Up Important Social Media Case

United States Supreme Court

( – The United States Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case disputing whether government officials should be banned from blocking their critics on social media platforms under the Constitution’s First Amendment.

The freedom of speech case involving social media was initiated by parents in Poway, California, who sued two public school board officials who had blocked the former’s criticism on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

A lower court ruled in favor of the parents, but the school board officials have appealed the case, Reuters reported, as cited by Newsmax.

On the same issue, the Supreme Court justices also took up a case in which a Michigan man sued a city official in Port Huron who had blocked him on Facebook.

The man had criticized the local government’s COVID-19 pandemic response, but a lower court ruled against him, so he appealed.

“At issue is whether a public official’s social media activity can amount to governmental action bound by First Amendment limits on government regulation of speech,” the report points out.

It is noted that the US Supreme Court already faced a social media First Amendment case in 2021 after former President Donald Trump blocked critics from his Twitter profile.

After Trump had left office, the justices decided the case was moot and nixed a lower court’s ruling that the president had violated his critics’ rights to free speech.

The California case involves Michelle O’Connor-Ratcliff and T.J. Zane, elected Poway Unified School District members, and Christopher and Kimberly Garnier, the parents of three students at district schools.

The officials blocked the couple on Facebook and Twitter after the latter posted hundreds of critical messages on Zane and O’Connor-Ratcliff’s profiles on several topics, including race and school finances.

According to the Garniers’ lawsuit, both district members had Facebook pages identifying them as government officials.

Thus, Zane’s Facebook page was entitled “T.J. Zane, Poway Unified School District Trustee” and included a picture of a school district signage.

O’Connor-Ratcliff also had a public Twitter profile. On both platforms, she described herself as “President of the PUSD Board of Education.”

In 2021, a federal judge in California sided with the parents, a ruling upheld by the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in July 2022.

In the Michigan case, Port Huron resident Kevin Lindke was blocked from City Manager James Freed’s public Facebook page over critical posts on coronavirus response.

In 2021, a federal judge ruled in favor of Freed, and the ruling was upheld by the Cincinnati-based 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in July 2022. Both courts said Freed hadn’t acted in his official capacity when he blocked Lindke.

“The petitioners in both disputes told the Supreme Court that the divergent outcomes in their cases reflected a divide among lower courts that the justices should resolve,” Reuters notes.

What is your opinion? Should government officials be able to block their critics on social media platforms? Why or why not? Share your view by emailing [email protected]. Thank you.