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US Supreme Court weighs social media ‘blocks’ by public officials

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'There may be First Amendment interests in protecting the private speech of government employees,' opined Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan

‘There may be First Amendment interests in protecting the private speech of government employees,’ opined Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan – Copyright GETTY IMAGES/AFP Samuel Corum

Selim SAHEB ETTABA

Can a public official block someone from their personal social media accounts?

The US Supreme Court weighed the matter on Tuesday as it sought to reconcile conflicting rulings from cases handled by lower courts.

The question reached the nation’s highest court once previously, when then-president Donald Trump was sued for blocking critics on Twitter, now known as X.

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But the case was declared moot by the justices after Trump was banned from Twitter and left the White House.

The cases before the court on Tuesday involved the social media accounts of a city manager in Michigan and school board members in California.

In the Michigan case, a city manager blocked a state resident from his Facebook page.

In California, the school board members blocked a set of parents who repeatedly left critical comments on their Facebook pages.

Arguing on behalf of the city manager, lawyer Victoria Ferres said “this country’s 21 million government employees should have the right to talk publicly about their jobs on personal social media accounts like their private sector counterparts.”

Hashim Mooppan, representing the California school board members, said “individuals who hold public office are still private citizens too.”

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“When acting in their personal capacity, they retain their First Amendment rights to decide who can participate in a community discussion that they host at their own property,” Mooppan said.

“They are thus free to block users from their personal social media pages, unless they chose to operate those pages in their official capacities instead,” he said.

Pamela Karlan, an attorney for the California parents, countered that the Facebook pages were “a tool of governance” and “of the hundreds of posts I found only three were truly non job-related.”

– ‘First Amendment interests’ –

Justice Elena Kagan said the cases present “First Amendment interests on both sides” — a reference to the constitutional amendment protecting freedom of speech.

“Just as there may be First Amendment interests in protecting the private speech of government employees,” Kagan said, “there are also First Amendment interests in enabling citizens to access the important parts of their government.

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“That’s what makes these cases hard,” she said. “It’s that there are First Amendment interests all over the place.”

References to Trump’s Twitter account surfaced repeatedly during Tuesday’s oral arguments.

“I don’t think a citizen would be able to really understand the Trump presidency, if you will, without any access to all the things that the president said on that account,” Kagan said.

“It was an important part of how he wielded his authority,” she said. “And to cut a citizen off from that is to cut a citizen off from part of the way that government works.”

The Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling next year.

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Snapchat Explores New Messaging Retention Feature: A Game-Changer or Risky Move?

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Snapchat Explores New Messaging Retention Feature: A Game-Changer or Risky Move?

In a recent announcement, Snapchat revealed a groundbreaking update that challenges its traditional design ethos. The platform is experimenting with an option that allows users to defy the 24-hour auto-delete rule, a feature synonymous with Snapchat’s ephemeral messaging model.

The proposed change aims to introduce a “Never delete” option in messaging retention settings, aligning Snapchat more closely with conventional messaging apps. While this move may blur Snapchat’s distinctive selling point, Snap appears convinced of its necessity.

According to Snap, the decision stems from user feedback and a commitment to innovation based on user needs. The company aims to provide greater flexibility and control over conversations, catering to the preferences of its community.

Currently undergoing trials in select markets, the new feature empowers users to adjust retention settings on a conversation-by-conversation basis. Flexibility remains paramount, with participants able to modify settings within chats and receive in-chat notifications to ensure transparency.

Snapchat underscores that the default auto-delete feature will persist, reinforcing its design philosophy centered on ephemerality. However, with the app gaining traction as a primary messaging platform, the option offers users a means to preserve longer chat histories.

The update marks a pivotal moment for Snapchat, renowned for its disappearing message premise, especially popular among younger demographics. Retaining this focus has been pivotal to Snapchat’s identity, but the shift suggests a broader strategy aimed at diversifying its user base.

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This strategy may appeal particularly to older demographics, potentially extending Snapchat’s relevance as users age. By emulating features of conventional messaging platforms, Snapchat seeks to enhance its appeal and broaden its reach.

Yet, the introduction of message retention poses questions about Snapchat’s uniqueness. While addressing user demands, the risk of diluting Snapchat’s distinctiveness looms large.

As Snapchat ventures into uncharted territory, the outcome of this experiment remains uncertain. Will message retention propel Snapchat to new heights, or will it compromise the platform’s uniqueness?

Only time will tell.

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Catering to specific audience boosts your business, says accountant turned coach

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Catering to specific audience boosts your business, says accountant turned coach

While it is tempting to try to appeal to a broad audience, the founder of alcohol-free coaching service Just the Tonic, Sandra Parker, believes the best thing you can do for your business is focus on your niche. Here’s how she did just that.

When running a business, reaching out to as many clients as possible can be tempting. But it also risks making your marketing “too generic,” warns Sandra Parker, the founder of Just The Tonic Coaching.

“From the very start of my business, I knew exactly who I could help and who I couldn’t,” Parker told My Biggest Lessons.

Parker struggled with alcohol dependence as a young professional. Today, her business targets high-achieving individuals who face challenges similar to those she had early in her career.

“I understand their frustrations, I understand their fears, and I understand their coping mechanisms and the stories they’re telling themselves,” Parker said. “Because of that, I’m able to market very effectively, to speak in a language that they understand, and am able to reach them.” 

“I believe that it’s really important that you know exactly who your customer or your client is, and you target them, and you resist the temptation to make your marketing too generic to try and reach everyone,” she explained.

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“If you speak specifically to your target clients, you will reach them, and I believe that’s the way that you’re going to be more successful.

Watch the video for more of Sandra Parker’s biggest lessons.

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Instagram Tests Live-Stream Games to Enhance Engagement

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Instagram Tests Live-Stream Games to Enhance Engagement

Instagram’s testing out some new options to help spice up your live-streams in the app, with some live broadcasters now able to select a game that they can play with viewers in-stream.

As you can see in these example screens, posted by Ahmed Ghanem, some creators now have the option to play either “This or That”, a question and answer prompt that you can share with your viewers, or “Trivia”, to generate more engagement within your IG live-streams.

That could be a simple way to spark more conversation and interaction, which could then lead into further engagement opportunities from your live audience.

Meta’s been exploring more ways to make live-streaming a bigger consideration for IG creators, with a view to live-streams potentially catching on with more users.

That includes the gradual expansion of its “Stars” live-stream donation program, giving more creators in more regions a means to accept donations from live-stream viewers, while back in December, Instagram also added some new options to make it easier to go live using third-party tools via desktop PCs.

Live streaming has been a major shift in China, where shopping live-streams, in particular, have led to massive opportunities for streaming platforms. They haven’t caught on in the same way in Western regions, but as TikTok and YouTube look to push live-stream adoption, there is still a chance that they will become a much bigger element in future.

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Which is why IG is also trying to stay in touch, and add more ways for its creators to engage via streams. Live-stream games is another element within this, which could make this a better community-building, and potentially sales-driving option.

We’ve asked Instagram for more information on this test, and we’ll update this post if/when we hear back.

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