Our Founding Fathers could be mean. John Adams called Alexander Hamilton the “bastard brat of a Scottish peddler,” and claimed Thomas Jefferson’s soul was “poisoned with ambition.” Adams’ enemies retaliated by calling him a “blind, bald, crippled toothless man.”
Political debates today can be just as heated, causing some elected leaders to block constituents who post critical views from accessing their Facebook or Twitter accounts. However, the ACLU of Utah believes that official social media platforms for elected leaders and government organizations are public forums, and that blocking individuals is an unconstitutional restriction on their right to free speech. As more lawsuits over social media blocking by elected officials are filed across the country, more judges are increasingly seeing it the same way.
In April, the Governor of Maryland settled a lawsuit filed by the ACLU after his office blocked several constituents for posting critical comments. More recently, a federal judge in Maine allowed an ACLU lawsuit to continue against that state’s governor for blocking constituents—finding that social media censorship violated free speech rights.
These rulings even apply to the nation’s highest political office: In May, a federal judge in New York ruled that President Trump infringed on the First Amendment by blocking constituents who posted unflattering comments on his Twitter feed.
This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2018 Fall Newsletter >>