Emily Cohen

Document Type


Publication Date



First Amendment, social media, public forum, Twitter, Facebook, Garnier v. O’Connor-Ratcliff, Lindke v. Freed

Subject Category

Constitutional Law | Law


In the modern world, social media dominates. It is considered an almost essential function of public officials, ranging from the President of the United States to local politicians, to maintain at least one social media page to keep the public updated on their policies and current events. As public officials shift toward social media to communicate with the public, these social media sites become the new spaces for public discourse, with members of the public often commenting on or responding to public officials' posts. As more public discourse occurs on these sites, and individuals begin to criticize their public officials on them, this criticism of the officials, protected by the First Amendment, must be given the same safeguards as more traditional forms of speech.

This Note argues that it violates the First Amendment when public officials block individuals from their public social media pages for criticizing the official. Various courts have analyzed this issue, with some courts finding First Amendment violations due to the public official's blocking of an individual and other courts finding no such violation. The Supreme Court has yet to issue an opinion on this issue but will soon, after recently granting cert. for two cases discussed in this Note: Garnier v. O'Connor-Ratcliff and Lindke v. Freed. Therefore, this Note argues that the cases where the courts did not find First Amendment violations were decided incorrectly. In a time when social media is the center of public discourse, the law must adopt to fit modern times, leading to a finding of First Amendment violations when public officials prohibit free speech online, in the same way as it does when they prohibit free speech in any other public forum.