Supreme Court rules officials can sometimes be sued for blocking critics

 March 16, 2024

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Friday that under certain conditions, public officials can be sued for blocking dissenters and critics on their social media pages. 

Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote for the court that officials who use their personal accounts to make official statements may be subject to the suits if they block comments or users who disagree or criticize them.

But Barrett also wrote, “State officials have private lives and their own constitutional rights.”

The cases ruled on by the court are similar to a case involving former President Donald Trump when he decided to block critics from his personal account. That case was dismissed in 2021 when he left office, however.

New situations

The cases show how new technologies have led to new situations that courts have not dealt with before.

In one case in Cincinnati, Lindke V. Freed, found that because city manager James Freed had not posted anything official from his personal Facebook page, he was not in error for blocking a constituent from criticizing him on the page.

In the other case, two school board members in California did use their Facebook and Twitter accounts to post official statements and information, so they could be sued by parents whose critical comments they blocked.

The Supreme Court sent both cases back to their respective appeals courts to apply the new standard to them.

The court seemed to affirm the rulings in both cases, however.

Other social media-related cases

There are a total of five social media-related cases before the court this season.

Most of the others are political in nature, such as the case against laws in Florida and Texas that aim to prevent social media companies from taking down posts they don't agree with.

Then there's a case from Missouri and Louisiana against the Biden administration for allegedly coercing social media platforms into taking down posts they don't like.

There are many such sticky issues with social media and Big Tech, and it's about time the Supreme Court laid down some guidelines about what these massive companies can and can't do to control what users post, and how, and when.

Free speech should not depend on one's political views, but is a right that should be equally applied in an objective manner.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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