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  • Mamaroneck Observer

Politics and Social Media

By Cindy Goldstein -

What do Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have in common? They both violated voters’ First Amendment rights by blocking certain individuals from their social media sites.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “One of the core purposes of the First Amendment is to allow people, regardless of their views, to hold the government accountable through expression. So, if your elected representative has an official Facebook page where she invites comments, can she block you from commenting because you criticize her work? According to a federal appeals court, the answer is a resounding no.”

Knight v. Trump

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unanimously agreed with a lower court decision that an elected official (in this case Donald Trump) cannot block anyone from a social media account that engages in government business finding the account to be a public forum. See HERE.

AOC Twitter Block

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blocked a former politician from her twitter account. He then sued her for his right to have access to that account and anything posted on it. As a result of the decision in the case against Trump, a settlement agreement included restoration of his access in addition to a public apology from AOC.

Officials Need a Thick Skin

Criticism, mocking and disagreeing with the official is irrelevant. Social media has become a modern day town hall and must allow differing points of view if the official’s site engages in government activity.

ACLU Position

The ACLU reminds us that politicians often wear two hats, their personal life which is not required to be open to the public and their role as government officials, who are sharing information in that role and therefore considered to be doing government work. Whenever a government official uses a social media account to share government information, solicit input on policy issues, and/or opens the page to public comment, they are engaging in government activity and therefore may not block critics.

If You Have Been Blocked

First, be sure to screenshot the blocking or otherwise document any blocking. Next, contact the public official for more information, and ask for your access to be restored, as your constitutional rights are being violated. Ask for their social media policy. Keep the pressure on - the law is on your side.


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