The high court is currently in a state of deliberation on a landmark case that will help define the rights of citizens to criticize officials on social media. In an unprecedented move, a federal court is deciding whether or not officials can legally block critics from social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
The case surrounds North Carolina Representative David Liller, who blocked constituents from his official Twitter account and subsequently refused to unblock them, prompting a number of lawsuits. The plaintiffs argue that by blocking users and preventing them from accessing public information, Rep. Liller is violating their First Amendment rights.
On the other hand, Liller’s lawyers, as well as the Justice Department, have argued that the act of blocking users does not equate to censoring their views. They state that the account is the Representative’s personal space and they have the right to decide who is allowed to comment.
The case has garnered significant attention from both sides of the political aisle. Many from the left are concerned that allowing public officials to block critics on social media sites would create an environment where the voices of constituents are not being heard. The right, on the other hand, see it as a way to protect public figures from what they deem to be harassment or trolling.
Such a monumental decision carries great weight and as such, the court must be precise when handing down judgement. In the argument, both sides bring valid points to the table, and it will be up to the justices to decide whether blocking users classifies as censorship or a personal decision.
This case will serve as an important precedent for similar cases in the future and its outcome will likely shift the definition of freedom of speech in regards to public figures on social media. It will be interesting to see how the court addresses this issue and the implications it will have on the rights of citizens nationwide.