Tag Archives: Supreme Court

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.

Supreme Court Declines To Review Epic’s App Store Case

Apple will have to comply with a sweeping injunction reshaping its relationship with mobile app developers and potentially billions of dollars in app-related sales, after the US Supreme Court declined to review the lower court’s order on Tuesday, CNN reported.

Apple estimated in 2022 that developers generated $1.1 trillion in the App Store that year, making the high court’s decision not to hear the case a major blow to Apple.

According to CNN, Apple generally takes a 30% cut of in-app purchases of digital goods and services, though it takes a lower 15% cut in some situations and the company has said many app makers pay no commission at all.

The company for years has sought to prevent app makers from using buttons, links, or other features within iOS to direct consumers to purchase in-app content through payment channels other than Apple’s.

By not hearing Apple’s petition, the Supreme Court leaves in place a nationwide injunction prohibiting Apple from intervening when developers include such features in their apps.

It also highlights how a lawsuit triggered by “Fortnite”-maker Epic Games appears to have resulted in lasting changes to Apple’s app store, affecting potentially millions of apps across iOS.

In a related decision, the Supreme Court declined to hear Epic’s own appeal, which claimed that lower courts had wrongly concluded Apple’s app store practices did not violate federal antitrust law but did violate aspects of California’s unfair competition law.

In a thread posted on X, the platform formally known as Twitter, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said that while the court’s rejection of its petition was “a sad outcome” in Epic’s fight to force open Apple’s app store, the surviving injunction will allow app-makers “to tell US customers about better prices on the web.”

Reuters reported that the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear a challenge to a lower court’s decision requiring changes to certain rules in its lucrative App Store, as the justices shunned the lengthy battle between the iPhone maker Epic Games, maker of the popular game “Fortnite.”

Reuters wrote that the justices also turned away Epic’s appeal of the lower court’s ruling that Apple’s App Store policies limiting how software is distributed and paid for do not violate federal antitrust laws. The justices gave no reasons for their decision to deny the appeals.

According to Reuter’s Apple’s stock fell more than 2% in early trading on Tuesday.

Personally, I think this is the end of the litigation road for both Apple and Epic Games in this specific situation. The Supreme Court appears to be done with this particular case.

NetChoice Says Solicitor General Agrees Supreme Court Should Hear Its Case

Yesterday, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on NetChoice & CCIA v. Paxton and NetChoice & CCIA v. Moody, emphasizing that both laws violate the First Amendment, NetChoice reported.

“The Solicitor General’s brief underscore that both Texas and Florida’s laws are unconstitutional and that the Court should review our cases,” said Chris Marchese, NetChoice Director of Litigation. “We urge the Court to strike down Texas and Florida’s laws and reaffirm that the Constitution prohibits the government from controlling online speech.”

The Verge reported that the Biden administration has requested the US Supreme Court review Florida and Texas laws restricting how social media companies like Facebook moderate the content users post on their platforms.

According to The Verge, in briefs filed on Monday, the solicitor general urged the court to take up a pair of lawsuits led by the tech trade group NetChoice. Both Florida and Texas passed laws making it illegal for large social platforms to suspend or punish users, citing long-standing allegations that major platforms are biased against conservatives.

The Verge also reported that a series of temporary injunctions have left the future of these laws in limbo, and Monday’s briefs add new pressure on the Supreme Court to resolve the suits.

Washington Examiner reported that Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar filed an amicus brief on Monday arguing that the Supreme Court should consider the conservative technology group NetChoice’s suit against Texas and Florida. The two states, the brief argues, run afoul of the First Amendment with restrictions on how social platforms regulate or moderate content.

According to Washington Examiner, while the laws in Texas and Florida differ in details, they have three things in common, according to the brief. They include “content-moderation provisions restricting platform’s choices about whether and how to present user-generated content to the public, individualized-explanation provisions requiring platforms to explain particular content-moderation decisions to affected users, and general-disclosure requiring platforms to disclose information about their content-moderation practices.”

Washington Examiner also reported that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed Senate Bill 7072 in May of 2021. The bill would allow Florida residents to sue a tech company for up to $250,000 a day for removing a statewide political candidate from its platform for more than two weeks, or notably less for county or local positions.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) signed House Bill 20 in September 2021, only for the law to be temporarily blocked by the Supreme Court. The law would bar platforms with more than 50 million users from banning content based on user viewpoint.

In my opinion, there is no way to be certain whether or not the Supreme Court will take up NetChoice’s cases. The Court could choose to do that, or might decide not to take up this particular case. We will have to wait and see what happens.