WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in O’Connor-Ratcliff v. Garnier and Lindke v. Freed, two cases addressing the application of the First Amendment to government officials’ social media accounts. In June, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University joined in the filing of a consolidated amicus brief with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Woodhull Freedom Foundation.

The following can be attributed to Katie Fallow, senior counsel at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University: 

“The Court should make clear that public officials who use their social media accounts as extensions of their offices are subject to the constraints of the First Amendment. The public officials in these cases are seeking a ruling that would allow them to block people whose views they do not like from their social media accounts, even when the officials use those accounts to communicate with their constituents about official business. With more officials using social media accounts as forums for debate and civic engagement, the Supreme Court should confirm that the First Amendment protects the rights of people to speak in these forums regardless of their views.”

The Knight Institute’s amicus brief emphasized that because 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. To protect the public’s right to engage with each other and with government representatives, the Court should confirm that the First Amendment forbids public officials from blocking people based on their viewpoints from social media accounts that the officials use to carry out their governmental duties. Read the amicus brief here 

In a case filed in 2017, Knight First Amendment Institute v. Trump, the Knight Institute established that public official’s social media accounts can be “public forums” under the First Amendment. Learn more about that case here

For more information, contact: Adriana Lamirande, [email protected]