The Supreme Court agreed Monday, April 24, 2023, to hear arguments in two cases regarding whether the First Amendment applies to public officials’ social media accounts when they block constituents online. The citizens feel this is unfair because they can miss information from these platforms. The appeals came after a federal court ruled in 2018 that former President Donald Trump violated individuals’ constitutional rights by blocking them from his personal Twitter account.
The Supreme Court tossed the ruling after he left office. In the case of O’Connor-Ratcliff v. Garnier, the question is whether two elected members of a school board near Southern California can block the parents of students in their district from their personal social media accounts. The parents felt that their concerns over race relations in the school district were going unheard and turned to social media to post hundreds of repetitive comments on the school board members’ Facebook and Twitter pages. The two school board members eventually blocked the parents from spamming their accounts.
In another case, Lindke v. Freed, the city manager of Port Huron, Michigan, blocked a resident from his Facebook page who was critical of the city’s Covid-19 restrictions. These cases are tricky because even when an annoyance, all citizens should have equal access. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the parent’s rights were violated in the California case, while the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of the Michigan official. These two cases are hard ones to figure out. There are good points from both sides. Tune in this fall to see how the Supreme Court handles these cases.