Can You Be Banned from Seeing Gov’t Social Media Posts? Biden Attorney Gives Surprise Answer

November 2nd, 2023 3:24 PM

Even the Democrat-appointed justices on the Supreme Court seemed alarmed when the Biden administration argued that  government agents have a nearly limitless ability to avoid criticism and prevent critics from accessing social media posts.

In two Oct. 31 hearings, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed when government officials could legally block citizens from being able to see and comment on those officials’ social media posts. The assistant solicitors general who argued on behalf of President Joe Biden in the cases contended that since the pages themselves are “private property,” public officials should be given a nearly limitless power to  block citizens' from viewing and interacting with their content. 

Several justices seemingly disagreed, including multiple justices appointed by Democrats. Associate Justice Elena Kagan — an appointee of Barack Obama and a traditionally left-wing member of the court — scolded the solicitors for “really not taking into account the big picture of how much is going to be happening in this forum and how much citizens will be foreclosed from participating in our democracy if the kind of rule you're advocating goes into effect.”

The cases, Lindke v. Freed and O’Connor-Ratcliff v. Garnier, originated when municipal officials in Michigan and California, respectively, blocked specific constituents on Facebook and Twitter (now X). This action prevented the “blocked” users from commenting directly on the officials’ posts, including posts announcing specific government policies. In the case of Twitter, the targeted citizens were forbidden from even seeing the officials’ posts. The blocked users brought suit, arguing the local officials had violated their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and petition. The Biden administration sent its lawyers to the hearing, asking the Supreme Court to impose a sweeping rule largely immunizing government officials when they delete comments or block access to their posts.

The Court appeared hostile to the administration’s arguments. Even Biden’s own appointee to the Court, Associate Justice Kentanji Brown Jackson, seemed perturbed by the power bureaucrats could gain with sweeping immunity to “block” citizens. “Does the government have any concern about the potential privatization of government functions that could occur?” she asked. “I’m a little worried about city mayors deciding to sort of shape the debate of the people in their community by having their meetings in private places so that others in the community can't comment.” 

Allon Kedem, an attorney for one of the blocked citizens, added that “under the government's test, public officials could transfer a lot of what they do to private property and thereby escape constitutional scrutiny.” 

Chief Justice John Roberts also seemed skeptical of the Biden administration’s “private property” argument. “In what sense,” he asked, are officials’ social media pages “really private property? They’re — It's just the gathering of the protons or whatever they are.”

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court’s senior member, reminded his colleagues of the larger censorship issues tied to the Lindke and O’Connor-Ratcliff disputes. “[L]ooming in the background is the power of Facebook itself to block these accounts,” he said. “And what's curious to me is that there's that elephant in the room and we don't discuss — we decline to discuss it in the context of private property.”

Conservatives are under attack. Contact your representatives and demand they investigate Biden and his solicitors general for their relentless support of censorship. If you have been censored, contact us using CensorTrack’s contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.