A Federal Court issued a decision this week that could have implications for the President’s Twitter account. Since taking office, the President’s habit of blocking Twitter users who are critical of him has been cause for debate. The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University has sued the President on behalf of blocked users. While the President may be the most well-known public official who likes to Twitter block his political foes, he is not the only official to do so.
Phyllis J. Randall is the chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. In her position, she runs a Facebook page to remain in touch with her constituents. On one occasion Randall posted “I really want to hear from ANY Loudoun citizen on ANY issues, request, criticism, compliment, or just your thoughts.”
Taking Randall up on her invitation, Brian C. Davidson a Loudoun citizen commented alleging Loudoun County corruption. Randall erased the entire post, which erased the comment, and blocked Davidson on Facebook.
Davidson sued to allege that blocking him on Facebook was a violation of his 1st amendment right to free speech.
US District Judge James C. Cacheris found in favor of Davidson after Randall admitted that her decision to block Davidson was “because she was offended by his criticism of her colleagues in the County government.”
Judge Cacheris said in his decision, “Defendant’s offense at Plaintiff’s views was therefore an illegitimate basis for her actions—particularly given that Plaintiff earned Defendant’s ire by criticizing the County government. Indeed, the suppression of critical commentary regarding elected officials is the quintessential form of viewpoint discrimination against which the First Amendment guards. By prohibiting Plaintiff from participating in her online forum because she took offense at his claim that her colleagues in the County government had acted unethically, Defendant committed a cardinal sin under the First Amendment.”
So in other words, public officials do not get to censor views simply because they run contrary to the views or policies of the official. President Trump, take note.