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Can elected officials block you on social media? Supreme Court to rule on that soon

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  • Staff Report 

The Supreme Court is set to decide if elected officials have the right to block their constituents on social media platforms. Earlier this week, the high court agreed to review two cases involving this issue, which has sparked judicial debate for years.

Former President Donald Trump faced several lawsuits concerning his decision to block people from his widely-followed @realDonaldTrump account, which he frequently used to announce policy decisions. In 2019, a federal appeals court in New York ruled that Trump could not block users due to his account’s policy announcement function. While the case was eventually dismissed following the 2020 election, the Supreme Court will now consider similar cases involving local officials.

The first case involves two California school board members who used their Facebook and Twitter accounts to share updates with the public. After blocking parents who posted critical comments and replies, a lawsuit was filed claiming a violation of First Amendment rights. The second case involves a Michigan city manager who used his Facebook page to communicate with constituents. After blocking a resident who criticized the city’s COVID-19 response, another lawsuit followed.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

With contrasting rulings in these cases, the Supreme Court’s decision will set precedents for lower courts. The outcome could also impact the growing trend of officials utilizing social media to engage with the public and help define the boundaries between personal and professional online activities.

The Supreme Court’s involvement in these cases may also have implications for the future of online free speech and content moderation laws. The cases, O’Connor-Ratcliff v. Garnier (No. 22-324) and Lindke v. Freed (No. 22-611), will likely be heard when the court resumes arguments in October.