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When Is Government Official's Blocking Commenter from Social Media Page "State Action"?

Added 06-27-22 08:21:02pm EST - “From Judge Amul Thapar's Sixth Circuit opinion in Lindke v. Freed today, joined ? by Judges Ralph Guy and Chad Readler:...” - Reason.com

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Posted By TheNewsCommenter: From Reason.com: “When Is Government Official’s Blocking Commenter from Social Media Page “State Action”?”. Below is an excerpt from the article.

From Judge Amul Thapar's Sixth Circuit opinion in Lindke v. Freed today, joined  by Judges Ralph Guy and Chad Readler:

Like many Americans, James Freed joined Facebook to connect with friends and family. He created a Facebook profile—a private account limited to his "friends"—and used it for years. But eventually, he grew too popular for Facebook's 5,000-friend limit on profiles. So Freed converted his profile to a "page," which has unlimited "followers" instead of friends. His page was public, and anyone could "follow" it; for the page category, Freed chose "public figure."

In 2014, Freed was appointed city manager for Port Huron, Michigan. So he updated his Facebook page to reflect his new title. In the "About" section, he most recently described himself as "Daddy to Lucy, Husband to Jessie and City Manager, Chief Administrative Officer for the citizens of Port Huron, MI." Freed listed the Port Huron website as his page's website, the City's general email for "City Administration and Staff" ([email protected]) as his page's contact information, and the City Hall address as his page's address.

Freed was an active Facebook user whose page featured a medley of posts. He shared photos of his daughter's birthday, his visits to local community events, and his family's weekend picnics. He also posted about some of the administrative directives he issued as city manager. And when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in spring 2020, he posted about that too, sharing the policies he initiated for Port Huron and news articles on public-health measures and statistics.

Freed's Covid-19 posts caught the attention of one disconcerted citizen, Kevin Lindke. Lindke didn't approve of how Freed was handling the pandemic. He saw Freed's posts about new policies and responded with criticism in the comments section. Freed didn't appreciate the comments, so he deleted them. And Freed eventually "blocked" Lindke from the page, which kept Lindke from commenting on Freed's page and its posts.

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