SCOTUS to consider whether government officials can block critics on social media

Tuesday, April 25, 2023 | Tag Cloud Tags: , , ,

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by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) – The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear appeals in two cases where lower courts gave divergent rulings on whether the Constitution’s First Amendment prohibits government officials from blocking their critics on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, Reuters reports.

In the first of the two appeals taken up by the Supreme Court justices, the parents of three children at district schools in California sued two elected members of the Poway public school board in Southern California for blocking them on Facebook and Twitter after they made numerous complaints on issues including race and finances, Reuters reports.

A federal judge ruled in favor of the parents in 2021, as did the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year. Both lower courts found that the elected school board members had presented their social media accounts as official “channels of communication with the public,” Reuters reports.

In the second appeal taken on by the Supreme Court, a Michigan resident sued a city official in Port Huron for blocking him on Facebook after he criticized the local government’s COVID-19 response, Reuters reports.

In this case, a federal court found in favor of the official in 2021, and the 6th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals agreed last year. Both lower courts found that the official had not been acting in his official capacity when he blocked the plaintiff on Facebook.

The high court will consider whether social media activity conducted by government officials represents government action that must not hinder US citizens’ First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The petitioners have also asked the justices to resolve the divergent outcomes between the two cases in the lower courts.

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