27 September 2018

Why it’s Unconstitutional for Politicians – Including the President – to Block People on Social Media

*This article first appeared in the Washington Post on September 26, 2018.

In a recent piece for Washington Post Outlook, Chris Fonzone and Josh Geltzer (from the Georgetown Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection) explained why a legal case that began with a dispute between a Loudoun County supervisor and a constituent may help set a new standard for online interaction nationally:

A legal case that began with a dispute between a member of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and a constituent may help to set the rules for how government officials — up to and including President Trump — interact with the public online. A federal appeals court in Richmond will hear the case this week, and, while the stakes of the conflict may seem small at first — one man was banned for a day from an official’s Facebook page — it has potentially enormous First Amendment implications.

The case could establish a precedent that it is unconstitutional for government officials to block comments on their official social media sites because of distaste for a poster’s opinion. If that view becomes settled law, it could end up reshaping how Trump and his aides run his Twitter feed. And, given the ubiquity of online political communication today, such a decision would reverberate across the country.

These implications are why we have filed a friend-of-the court brief on behalf of leading First Amendment scholars in the Loudoun County case being argued Wednesday, and it is why the Georgetown University Law Center institute where one of us works previously filed a brief in support of some of the people whom Trump has blocked on Twitter.

The full piece is available here:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2018/09/26/why-its-unconstitutional-politicians-including-president-block-people-social-media/.

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