Several weeks after a First Amendment group sued President Trump for blocking social media accounts with dissenting opinions, the American Civil Liberties Unions (ACLU) has filed lawsuits against Govs. Matt Bevin (R-Ky.) and Larry Hogan (R-Md.), claiming they violated constituents’ First Amendment rights by blocking individuals from official social media accounts.
“The highest purpose of the First Amendment is to protect the right of Americans to engage in political speech and to petition the government to address their concerns,” Deborah Jeon, who serves as the ACLU of Maryland’s legal director, said in a statement.
“As the Supreme Court ruled in June, and a federal judge in Virginia echoed just last week, social media has become a vital means for constituents to communicate with their elected officials. It violates both the First Amendment and Maryland’s own social media guidelines for government officials to block out any voices of dissent or those simply raising questions about positions taken by public officials sworn to serve.”
The Hill added:
One of the Maryland plaintiffs said she was a Democrat who voted for Hogan and was blocked from his Facebook page after asking the governor to issue a statement on President Trump’s travel ban.
“My comment was deleted and I was blocked from the page. From the moment it happened, I couldn’t believe Governor Hogan would block people who disagreed with him, but who weren’t rude or threatening,” Meredith Phillips said. “Deleting any comment from constituents that doesn’t praise or agree with Governor Hogan is a violation of free speech.”
William Sharp, the legal director for the ACLU of Kentucky, said in a statement that “the First Amendment does not allow the government to exclude speakers from a public forum because it disagrees with their viewpoint.”
“And even when the government seeks to enforce permissible limits in such a forum, permanently excluding individuals for violating those limits goes too far,” Sharp added.