Supreme Court to rule on whether public officials can block people on social media

 October 31, 2023

In 2019, a federal appeals court ruled that President Donald Trump could not block other users on the social media platform then known as Twitter.

While Trump appealed to the Supreme Court, it found the case to be moot since he was out of office by that point. However, America's highest judicial body just announced that it will hear a similar case. 

City manager blocked local resident from Facebook account

According to USA Today, the case concerns Port Huron, Michigan resident Kevin Lindke, someone who has been described as a "social media figure."

USA Today quoted Lindke as saying that he "goes after" government figures whom he regards as being "unethical and dishonest."

One figure Lindke took issue with was James Freed, who serves as city manager and chief administrative officer of Port Huron.

In particular, Lindke had criticized Freed's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and left three smiley faced emojis on one of his Facebook posts.

Fight centers on the First Amendment

For his part, Freed considered the move to be "weird" and "creepy," telling USA Today, "When I saw the smiley faces, I knew who this was." Freed then proceeded to block Lindke, a move he challenged on constitutional grounds.

"Everything I'm doing is basically to give a voice to the people who don't have one," Lindke stated, insisting that his post amounts to political speech protected by the First Amendment.

Evelyn Danforth-Scott serves as a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, and her organization is backing Lindke.

"Civic dialogue increasingly takes place on social media, but it's a context where the boundaries between what's personal and what's official are much blurrier," Danforth-Scott declared.

"Getting this distinction right is critical – it ensures that government officials cannot evade constitutional limits like the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause by claiming to be acting in their personal capacity," she added.

City manager says his Facebook page was personal

However, Freed maintains that his Facebook page is a personal space as it was created years before he ever even considered running for office and no other city employees had access to it.

"If I thought that this was a public page, not private, I would never have posted photos of my kids," the official told USA Today.

"I would never have posted what I ate for dinner, you know?" Freed continued, adding, "I believe more than 80% of the posts are all family stuff."

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Thomas Jefferson
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