Tag Archives: Social Media

Supreme Court Rules Public Officials Can Block Social Media Followers

The Supreme Court ruled Friday that public officials may block people on social media in certain circumstances, tossing aside challenges against local government officials in Michigan and California who blocked followers who were critical of them on Facebook, CNN reported.

In an unanimous opinion written by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the court set a clearer standard for when public officials are state actors online and when they can have more control over their social media presence. A second opinion dealing with a related dispute was unsigned and there were no noted dissents.

According to CNN, in an era when public officials often communicate with voters through social media, the cases raised important First Amendment questions about whether those pages were private or whether they are an extension of the government. Some of the pages included information that appeared official alongside personal posts showing the family dog.

“When a government official posts about job-related topics on social-media, it can be difficult to tell whether the speech is official or private,” Barrett wrote.

ArsTechnica posted a headline: “Public officials can block haters — but only sometimes, SCOTUS rules.” There are some circumstances where government officials are allowed to block people from commenting on their social media pages, the Supreme Court said.

According to the Supreme Court, the key question is whether officials are speaking as private individuals or on behalf of the state when posting online. Issuing two opinions, the Supreme Court declined to set a clear standard for when personal social media use constitutes state speech, leaving each unique case to be decided by lower courts.

Instead, SCOTUS provided a test for courts to decide first if someone is or isn’t speaking on behalf of the state on their social media pages, and then if they actually have authority to act on what they post online.

The ruling suggests that government officials can block people from commenting on personal social media pages where they discuss official business when that speech can not be attributed to the state and merely reflects personal remarks. This means that blocking is acceptable when the official has no authority to speak for the state or exercise that authority when speaking on their page.

NBC News reported the Supreme Court ruled Friday that members of the public in some circumstances can sue public officials for blocking them on social media platforms, deciding a pair of cases against the backdrop of former President Donald Trump’s contentious and colorful use of Twitter.

The court ruled unanimously that officials can be deemed “state actors” when making use of social media and can therefore face litigation if they block or mute a member of the public.

In ruling that it can, the court found that blocking someone from following an official constitutes a government action that could give rise to a constitutional claim under the Constitution’s First Amendment, which protects free speech.

In my opinion, we might see less posts from public officials on social media, considering the SCOTUS decision. That said, it is unclear to me if SCOTUS is requiring “state actors” to put up with angry people on social media.


Supreme Court Questions Florida And Texas Social Media Laws

The Supreme Court on Monday appeared to have deep concerns of state laws enacted in Florida and Texas that would prohibit social media platforms from throttling certain political viewpoints, CNN reported.

The high-stakes battle gives the nation’s highest court an enormous say in how millions of Americans get their news and information, as well as whether sites such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok should be able to make their own decisions about how to moderate spam, hate speech, and election misinformation.

According to CNN, the state laws ban online platforms from removing posts that express opinions, such as political content. States say the laws are necessary to keep the social media platforms from discriminating against conservatives.

At least at this stage of the case, however, it’s unclear how the justices will rule. Several of the justices were unsettled by the possibility that the laws could be applied to other sites, like Uber, without violating the Constitution. Some of the nine, meanwhile, signaled a desire to send the case back down to lower courts for further review about the potential sweep of the laws’ provisions beyond social media platforms.

NPR reported that the Supreme Court wrestled Monday with a pair of cases that could help define the future of the internet.

Legal experts say they’re the most important First Amendment cases in a generation. The question is whether states like Florida and Texas can force big social media platforms to carry content the platforms find hateful or objectionable.

According to NPR, Republicans in Florida and Texas took action, signing sweeping laws that prevent the largest platforms from banning users based on their political viewpoints and require them to provide an individual explanation to users about why their posts have been edited or removed.

NBC News eported that the Supreme Court on Monday grappled with knotty free speech questions as it weighted laws in Florida and Texas that seek to impose restrictions on the ability of social media companies to moderate content.

According to NBC News, after almost four hours of oral arguments, a majority of the justices appeared skeptical that states can prohibit platforms from barring or limiting the reach of some problematic users without violating the free speech rights of the companies.

But justices from across the ideological spectrum raised fears about the power and influence of big social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook and questioned whether the laws should be blocked entirely.

In my opinion, the Supreme Court justices are going to take some time before they come to a conclusion about what to do with the cases from Florida and Texas. Eventually, they will either release their decision or choose to not step into this particular case.

Bluesky Announces A New Look – The Social Butterfly

Bluesky remains an invite-only decentralized Twitter alternative, but now, you don’t have to be logged in to be able to see posts on the platform, according to a blog post from Bluesky CEO Jay Grabber, The Verge reported. You can now see posts from both the web and from the Bluesky App.

According to The Verge, if you want to prevent logged-out users from seeing your posts, you can “discourage” that by clicking a toggle in settings. But Bluesky notes that “other apps may not honor this request” and that the toggle doesn’t make your account private.

Bluesky posted the following in the Bluesky blog:

A New Look for Bluesky: The Social Butterfly (written by Jay Graber)

Today, we announced a new logo for Bluesky.

Why did we choose a butterfly?

Well, of course, it flies. But more importantly, it is a symbol of change and transformation. Early on, we noticed that people were organically using the butterfly emoji ? to indicate their Bluesky handles. We loved it, and adopted it as it spread. The butterfly speaks to our mission of transforming social media into something new.

Like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, we are starting to open up. Posts on Bluesky have been public from the start through the open protocol, but today, we’re making them publicly accessible through the app. We’re unfolding a little bit at a time, and are excited to bring you along on this journey of metamorphosis!

What’s in a name?

The name “Bluesky” was originally a placeholder for the project started by Twitter to build an open source protocol. I decided to keep the name when I was chosen as the lead of the project. It’s memorable and symbolizes the open space of possibilities: The Twitter bird freed from a closed platform to fly in Bluesky’s open ecosystem.

As the project matured, we named the underlying standard the AT Protocol, or atproto. Bluesky, as the more colorful (and less technical) name everyone was familiar with, is also what we named the first app we built on atprotp. But Bluesky is not the limit. Many more apps and experiences are already beginning to emerge – there are thousands of custom feeds, dozens of other clients, and atproto will eventually support other apps. We hope that Bluesky, as the first app, will be a catalyst for change and transform how social media works, like a butterfly flapping its wings…

TechCrunch reported that decentralized social network and Twitter rival Bluesky is finally letting users look at posts on the platform without logging in. People still need an invite to create an account and start posting but can read posts through a link.

This move will also let publishers link to or embed Bluesky posts in blogs. Plus, users can share them in individual group chats.

Personally, I have been enjoying Bluesky. I think the new butterfly emoji/logo is cute and feels like a good fit for the platform.

Pew Research Center Reported About Teens Use of Social Media

Despite negative headlines and growing concerns about social media’s impact on youth, teens continue to use these platforms at high rates – with some describing their social media use as “almost constant,” according to a new Pew Research Center survey of U.S. teens, Pew Research Center reported.

The survey – conducted Sept. 26 – Oct. 23, 2023, among 1,453 13-17-year-olds – covered social media, internet use an device ownership among teens. 

Here’s a look at the key findings related to online platforms:

YouTube continues to dominate. Roughly nine-in-ten teens say they use YouTube, making it the most widely used platform measured in our survey.

TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram remain popular among teens: Majorities of teens ages 13 to 17 say they use TikTok (63%), Snapchat (60%) and Instagram (59%). For older teens ages 15 to 17, these shares are about seven-in-ten.

Teens are less likely to be using Facebook and Twitter (recently renamed X) than they were a decade ago: Facebook once dominated the social media landscape from 71% in 2014-2015 to 33% today. Twitter, which was renamed X in July 2023, has also seen its teen user base shrink during the past decade – albeit at a less steep decline than Facebook.

Teen’s site and app usage has changed little in the past year. The share of teens using these platforms has remained relatively stable since spring 2022, when the Center last surveyed on these topics. For example, the percentage of teens who use TikTok is statistically unchanged since last year. 

And for the first time, we asked teens about BeReal: 13% report using this app.

By gender: Teen girls are more likely than boys to say they almost constantly use TikTok (22% vs. 12%) and Snapchat (17% vs 12%). But there are little to no differences in the shares of boys and girls who report almost constantly using YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.

By race and ethnicity: We also see differences by race and ethnicity in how much time teens report spending on these platforms.

Larger shares of Black and Hispanic teens report being on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok almost constantly, compared with a smaller share of White teens who say the same.

Hispanic teens stand out in TikTok and Snapchat use. For instance, 32% of Hispanic teens say they are on TikTok almost constantly, compared with 20% of Black teens and 10% of White teens.

CNN reported that online safety experts have previously raised concerns about the impact of Instagram – and the way it promotes so-called social comparison between users and celebrities, as well as their peers – on young girls. Meta has since released various feature updates meant to make it harder for users, particularly teens, to fall down content rabbit holes that could harm their mental health, including “take a break” reminders.

The Pew Research Center’s report also offers a stark reminder of a disparity that can make it harder for teens not only to access social media, but also access to schoolwork and complete homework: 10% of the teen respondents said they did not have access to a desktop or laptop computer at home.

Personally, I find this information about teens social media use to be fascinating. My generation of teenagers only had access to hand-written notes on paper, that were then folded into interacted shapes and handed to the intended recipient.

Texas’ Social Media Law Blocked By 5th Circuit Court

A federal appellate court temporarily halted Texas’ social media law from going into effect Wednesday, while tech trade groups seek review from the Supreme Court – the latest twist in months of legal maneuvers over a statute that could upend the online industry’s business models, Politico reported.

According to Politico, the ruling by the 5th U.S.Circuit Court of Appeals gives a brief reprieve to tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s YouTube as they seek a Supreme Court decision against H.B. 20, a Texas law that forbids large platforms from “censoring” viewpoints.

The decision marks a small win for tech trade groups NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association. Those groups had sued Texas’ attorney general, contending that the law would infringe on their member companies’ First Amendment protections by forcing them to carry content that violates their own rules.

Politico also wrote that NetChoice and CCIA had requested in a September 29 motion that the 5th Circuit press pause on H.B. 20 while they ask the Supreme Court to take up the underlying case. The trade groups – which represent Facebook, Twitter and Google – are appealing Sept. 16 ruling from the 5th Circuit that upheld the Texas law.

NetChoice wrote the following:

Today, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals approved NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Associations (CCIA)’s unopposed motion to stay Texas HB 20 pending a ruling on a future petition of certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court in our case, NetChoice & CCIA v. Paxton.

Now granted, HB 20 will stay enjoined until the case proceeds through the courts.

“Because Texas HB 20 would bury the internet in vile content, we’re relieved that it will remain enjoined until the case can be heard by the Supreme Court,” said Chris Marchese, NetChoice Counsel. “We remain confident that the law will ultimately be struck down as unconstitutional.”…

The Hill reported that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) touted the law during its signing last year as a way to push back on censorship and social media companies’ attempts to “silence conservative viewpoints”.

The law, H.B. 20, forbids social media companies with more than 50 million monthly users from banning Texas-based users over their political views. Opponents argue that the way the law is crafted could keep companies from being able to remove dangerous posts, such as pro-terrorist content, animal abuse, pornography and hate speech.

Personally, I don’t have much hope that the Supreme Court will do the right thing regarding Texas’ H.B. 20, (given their recent decisions on other important cases). If the Texas’ law prevails, it could make social media even more hostile than it currently is. That could result in people fleeing the big social media sites for smaller, better moderated, nicer ones.

Court Upholds Texas Social-Media Law On Web Censorship

A federal court upheld the validity of a Texas social media law that companies like Meta Platforms Inc. and Twitter Inc. say will prevent them from blocking hate speech and extremism, Bloomberg reported. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Friday lifted a lower court injunction that had blocked the legislation from taking effect.

According to Bloomberg, the Texas law bars social media platforms with more than 50 million users from discriminating on the basis of viewpoint. Texas Governor Greg Abbott and other Republicans argue the legislation is needed to protect conservative voices from being silenced. But tech groups say the measure unconstitutionally bars platforms from removing neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan screeds or Russian propaganda about its invasion of Ukraine.

The majority opinion was written by Judge Andrew Oldham, who was nominated to the bench by President Donald Trump. Judge Edith Jones, a nominee of President Ronald Regan, agreed with Oldham. Judge Leslie Southwick, a nominee of President George W. Bush, partly dissented with the majority.

Bloomberg also reported that critics of the law said it will wreak havoc on social media platforms by removing their ability to moderate and remove content that falls outside user guidelines. It would also allow Texas residents to sue platforms if posts are removed by claiming that their content is being censored.

The Washington Post reported the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld a controversial Texas social media law that bars companies from removing posts based on a person’s political ideology, overturning a lower court’s decision to block the law and likely setting up a Supreme Court showdown of the future of online speech.

According to The Washington Post, the ruling could have wide-ranging effects on the future of tech regulation, giving fresh ammunition to conservative politicians who have alleged that major tech companies are silencing their political speech. The Washington Post also reported that the decision diverges from precedent and recent rulings from the 11th Circuit and other courts, and tech industry groups are likely to appeal.

An appeal of the decision, The Washington Post wrote, could force the Supreme Court, where conservatives have a majority, to weigh in on internet regulation, which has become an increasingly politicized issue since the 2016 election. Liberals have called for new limits on the companies that would block the proliferation of harmful content and misinformation on the platforms, and conservatives have argued that the companies have gone too far in policing their sites, especially after the companies’ 2021 decision to ban Trump following the January 6 attacks on the Capitol.

Politico reported that NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel Carl Szabo said in a statement that his organization plans to appeal: “We remain convinced that when the U.S. Supreme Court hears one of our cases, it will uphold the First Amendment rights of websites, platforms, and apps.

According to Politico, CCIA President Matt Schruers said, “We strongly disagree with the court’s decision. Forcing private companies to give equal treatment to all viewpoints on their platforms places foreign propaganda and extremism on equal footing with decent Internet users, and places Americans at risk.”

Personally, I think the court’s decision is going to immediately result in the meanest people on social media ramping up posts in which they spread misinformation about minorities and trans people. Now is an excellent time to make your social media accounts private.

California Governor Signs Bill Protecting Children’s Online Data And Privacy

California Governor Newsom announced that he has signed bipartisan landmark legislation aimed at protecting the wellbeing, data, and privacy of children using online platforms.

AB 2273 by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) and Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo), establishes the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, which requires online platforms to consider the best interest of child users and to default to privacy and safety settings that protect children’s mental and physical health and wellbeing.

AB 2273 prohibits companies that provide online services, products or features likely to be accessed by children from using a child’s personal information; collecting, selling, or retaining a child’s geolocation; profiling a child by default; and leading or encouraging children to provide personal information.

The bill also requires privacy information, terms of service, policies, and community standards be easily accessible and upheld – and requires responsive tools to help children exercise their privacy rights. This bipartisan legislation strikes a balance that protects kids, and ensure that technology companies will have clear rules of the road that will allow them to continue to innovate.

The Children’s Data Protection Working Group will be established as part of the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act to deliver a report to the Legislature, by January 2024, on the best practices for implementation.

AB 2273 requires businesses with an online presence to complete a Data Protection Impact Assessment before offering new online services, products, or features likely to be accessed by children.

Provided to the California Attorney General, the Data Protection Impact Assessments must identify the purpose of the online service, product, or feature, how it uses children’s personal information, and the risks of material detriment to children that arise from the data management practices.

The New York Times reported that despite opposition from the tech industry, the State Legislature unanimously approved the bill at the end of August. It is the first state statute in the nation requiring online services likely to be used by youngsters to install wide-ranging safeguards for users under 18.

According to The New York Times, the measure will require sites and apps to curb the risks that certain popular features – like allowing strangers to message one another – may pose to younger users. It will also require online services to turn on the highest privacy settings by default for children.

The New York Times also reported that the California measure could apply to a wide range of popular digital products that people under 18 are likely to use: social networks, game platforms, connected toys, voice assistants and digital learning tools for schools. It could also affect children far beyond the state, prompting some services to introduce changes nationwide, rather than treat minors in California differently.

Personally, I think that California’s AB 2273 is a great idea! I believe that every parent wants to make sure that their children will be safe when engaging in online video games, social networks, and other things that kids tend to like. It will be even better when these protections are established nationwide, to provide protection for all children in the United States.