Supreme Court Accepts Social Media Case

The Supreme Court agreed this week to take up a new case that deals with whether elected officials are able to block people from accessing their social media accounts.

The case was originally up for consideration while former President Donald Trump was in the White House. When Trump lost re-election in 2020, though, the justices dismissed the case since it was dealing with Trump himself.

On Monday, though, the Supreme Court decided they now wanted to take up the issue, this time with a completely new set of cases on appeal. This time, the elected officials involved aren’t as high-profile as Trump, but the ramifications of this case could affect all elected officials in the country.

The appeals cases that are coming before the high court now involve two different members of the Poway Unified School District Board of Trustees, located in Southern California, as well as the city manager for Port Huron in Michigan.

There’s no definitive start date for the case, but it’ll likely be some time during the next term of the court, which begins in October. If that were to happen, a decision could be expected to be handed down in June of 2024.

Since the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case, it means that at least four of the justices on the panel decided they wanted to take it up. Which justices that was, though, isn’t known to the public.

In the original case that was brought before the Supreme Court, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ended up ruling that the Twitter account that Trump had constituted a public forum. Since he blocked access to that account for some of his critics, the court ruled that he was in violation of the First Amendment.

The case was dismissed by the high court as moot in April of 2021, though, since Trump was no longer in the White House. 

In the current cases before the high court, school parents sued the Poway school district in California after they were blocked from accessing one Twitter account and Facebook pages that were maintained by elected officials.

The two elected members of the board are T.J. Zane and Michelle O’Connor-Ratcliff, who blocked parents Christopher and Kimberly Garnier after they made multiple posts that were critical of issues in the school district, ranging from how the school finances were handled as well as race in general.

The parents ultimately sued the two elected officials in federal court over the issue.

In the Michigan case, a man sued a Port Huron city official who ultimately blocked him on Facebook, after he made critical posts about how the local government responded to COVID-19.

The issue at hand is whether the social media activity of a public official is determined to be governmental action. If it is, then they would likely be prohibited from blocking people from accessing the pages, since it would be a violation of the First Amendment limits on how the government can regulate speech.