The Center for Individual Rights has successfully reached a settlement agreement with the Air Force to reinstate Richard Rynearson’s access to an official Air Force Facebook page and rescind an unconstitutional moderation policy. Richard Rynearson, a retired Air Force pilot, was banned from posting on the official Facebook page for the Chief Master Sergeant after he criticized Air Force sensitivity policies in a reply to one of Chief Bass’ posts. Subsequently, Chief Bass created a moderation rule that gave her office the authority to decide who could post comments.
CIR sued the Air Force for viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment. The most important principle of free speech guaranteed by the Constitution is that the government does not get to choose who can speak in public based on their viewpoint. In light of this principle, government actors who operate official public social media pages may not ban users solely for expressing a viewpoint that they find objectionable.
On August 3, CIR reached a settlement agreement that reinstates Rynearson’s access to the Facebook page for the Chief Master Sergeant and guarantees that neither Chief Bass nor any other Air Force Personnel will remove him or delete any of his posts because of the viewpoint he expresses.
The settlement also requires the Air Force to amend the page’s comment policy to include the following provision:
“Posts will not be removed, and users will not be banned, based on the viewpoint expressed in any comments”
Though the government is free to use big-tech platforms, it is not free to adopt big-tech’s policy of silencing speech that it finds objectionable. It is more important than ever to ensure that social media remains a place of free and open debate regardless of political viewpoint. Legal victories like this one strengthens freedom of speech for all.