People Annoying You On Facebook? Block Them. Unless You Are A Government Official, Maybe?

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What do you think this is, Parler? (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

As anyone who is terminally online can tell you, having a social media account isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Using them is linked with depression and anxiety, not to mention that the one that’s been really cool for the last few years is currently being run into the ground by a dude who appears to get his rocks off by watching rockets fail. Like most things, it gets even messier when the Constitution gets involved. For example, if a politician decides to block a particularly annoying constituent on Facebook, is that a free speech violation? Goofy as the question is, it needs answering, and the Supreme Court has agreed to give a final answer. From Law360:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to take up two separate appeals in the Ninth and Sixth circuits over when public officials can block individuals from their Facebook pages.

The high court granted a certiorari petition filed in November by Michelle O’Connor-Ratcliff and T.J. Zane, members of the Poway Unified School District Board of Trustees, who sought review of the Ninth Circuit’s July ruling that found they violated the First Amendment when they blocked two of their constituents, Christopher and Kimberly Garnier, from commenting on their public Facebook pages.

“The trustees’ use of their social media accounts was directly connected to, although not required by, their official positions,” the panel said at the time, noting that O’Connor-Ratcliff and Zane’s block of the couple qualifies as state action under 42 U.S. Code Section 1983, which provides civil relief to people deprived of their rights by public officials.

The justices also agreed to review a Sixth Circuit ruling in June that found Port Huron City Manager James R. Freed did not violate Kevin Lindke’s constitutional rights by blocking him from commenting on Freed’s personal Facebook page.

In short, the case will be about some version of this, but if Ted Cruz or Clarence Thomas were involved and it was on Facebook:

My immediate thoughts about this case were if any of the justices would have to recuse themselves from ruling on it. That said, it doesn’t look like any of the currently sitting justices have a thriving social media page — it looks like fair game. Now, if this case were about people protesting in front of restaurants, things could be different. Looking at you, Brett Kavanaugh.

BREAKING: Justices To Review If Officials Can Block Social Media Critics [Law360]

Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s.  He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at and by tweet at @WritesForRent.


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