Supreme Court Rules on Social Media Case, Gives Citizens Big Power Against Politicians Who Block Them

Supreme Court Rules on Social Media Case, Gives Citizens Big Power Against Politicians Who Block Them

The Supreme Court has handed down a ruling in one of the five social media-related cases before it this term, and it wasn’t a clear-cut win for either side.

At issue was whether or not public officials who post on social media can then block uses from accessing their posts or delete comments from them when the do access them, according to The Hill.

The court ruled Friday that if a public official posts on a topic related to his or her government role and be speaking with the authority of his or her role in the post.

“For social-media activity to constitute state action, an official must not only have state authority — he must also purport to use it,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote in the decision.

If both of those conditions are met, the court reasoned, then the official is acting in his or her official government capacity and cannot block users or delete their comments, which would be considered constitutionally protected in such cases.

Officials who do block users risk being sued, according to the decision, which was unanimous.

The issue first came up in a case filed against then-President Donald Trump, who was sued by Twitter users after being blocked by the president’s account. The court never heard that case, dismissing it as moot after Trump lost the 2020 election.

However, two more recent cases had risen again to the Supreme Court’s docket, one from Southern California and the other from Michigan.

“The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard the Michigan case, sided with the city manager, James Freed, who deleted comments on his Facebook page left by a resident and blocked several of the resident’s profiles,” The Hill explained.

“The resident, Kevin Lindke, had criticized Freed over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, court filings indicate.”

The California case was similar, involving two school board members who had blocked constituents from accessing their social media accounts.

SCOTUS didn’t rule on the merits of either case, instead remanding them to the lower courts to apply the new test explained by Barrett in the Michigan decision.

According to The Hill, the public officials in both cases were supported by an establishment alliance of the Biden administration, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and “a bipartisan group of 17 states.”

On the other side, “a group of First Amendment clinics” and the American Civil Liberties Union sided with the officials’ constituents.

“When a government official posts about job-related topics on social media, it can be difficult to tell whether the speech is official or private,” Barrett wrote in the decision, according to The Associated Press.

However, she also acknowledged that “[s]tate officials have private lives and their own constitutional rights.”

According to the AP, the other social media-related cases before the court this term “have a more partisan flavor.”

“The justices are evaluating Republican-passed laws in Florida and Texas that prohibit large social media companies from taking down posts because of the views they express,” the AP reported. “The tech companies said the laws violate their First Amendment rights. The laws reflect a view among Republicans that the platforms disproportionately censor conservative viewpoints.

“Next week, the court is hearing a challenge from Missouri and Louisiana to the Biden administration’s efforts to combat controversial social media posts on topics including COVID-19 and election security. The states argue that the Democratic administration has been unconstitutionally coercing the platforms into cracking down on conservative positions.”

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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