Lindke v. Freed

One of two Supreme Court cases addressing the application of the First Amendment to government officials’ social media accounts

On June 29, 2023, the Knight Institute joined in the filing of a consolidated amicus brief in both Lindke v. Freed and O’Connor-Ratcliff v. Garnier, two Supreme Court cases addressing the state action doctrine in the context of public officials’ use of social media accounts.

In Knight First Amendment Institute v. Trump, the Knight Institute successfully argued that the First Amendment applied to then-President Trump’s nominally personal Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, because it was used as an extension of his office. Since that time, numerous courts have agreed with the Knight Institute’s arguments and adopted the Second Circuit’s analysis, including the Ninth Circuit in Garnier. In Lindke, however, the Sixth Circuit took a much narrower view of the state action doctrine when analyzing a city manager’s public Facebook page. The Supreme Court granted cert in order to resolve this circuit split.

This brief argues that the Supreme Court should reverse the Sixth Circuit’s decision. Government officials and agencies use social media extensively to communicate with constituents, provide important public notices, and debate key policy and political issues. These are vital spaces for public discourse, and in order to protect the public’s right to engage with each other and with government representatives, the Court should adopt a functional approach to the state action test that asks when a social media account is used in furtherance of government duties.

Status: On remand to Sixth Circuit. Oral argument scheduled for July 29, 2024.

Case Information: Lindke v. Freed, No. 22-611 (Supreme Court), 21-2977 (6th Cir.).

On remand to Sixth Circuit. Oral argument scheduled for July 29, 2024.

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