G. McConway
January 31, 2024

Court Rules Twitter Block Violated Free Speech Rights

It would appear that our friend Elon Musk may have to make some more programming adjustments to X after an 8th Circuit Court ruling.

The court ruled that when former school board president Lewis Reed blocked Sarah Felts from commenting, her free speech was violated.

Felts criticized Reed for making a comment that supported the shutting down of a St. Louis jail.

You Cannot Do That

I could be wrong, but to my knowledge, public officials are not supposed to be permitted to block accounts or limit who can and cannot comment on their social media posts.

Felts, however, got under Reed’s skin when she was very critical of his posting regarding the prison being shut down.

The court stated, “Reed’s choice to block Felts on a government account was unilateral, unreviewable, and not subject to other policies.

“He created municipal policy in his area of the city’s business. Because of the unique power of the President of the Board of Aldermen, Reed exercised final policymaking authority when he blocked Felts.”

According to the current school board president, Megan Green, Reed had opened the account on his own, not using any city resources.

The court did not buy the excuse since the account had been tagged as an official administrative account.

Felts had filed the suit, claiming that Reed violated her 1st and 14th Amendment rights based on the fact the account was an official account of the president of the Board of Alderman.

The court added, “Reed’s decision to block Felts was a deliberate choice of a guiding principle and procedure to silence online critics ... Reed made a deliberate choice to block Felts among various alternatives — ignoring the tweet, muting her account, replying from the account, replying from a pseudonymous ‘burner’ account, or replying from a personal account not administered under color of law as an official governmental account.”

All three judges on the panel were appointed by Republicans.

Judge Duane Benton, who wrote the opinion, was appointed by George W. Bush. Judge James Loken was appointed by George H. W. Bush. And Judge Roger Wollman is a Ronald Reagan appointee.

Reed is no longer the president of the school board due to the fact he resigned and pleaded guilty in an unrelated bribery case. He has since been sentenced to 45 months in federal prison.

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