Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is blocking people from following or seeing a Twitter account that she uses for official government business. This is illegal.
The congresswoman was called out by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, the Daily Caller reports, who sent her a letter which cautioned her to stop blocking other Twitter users.
— Columbia University (@Columbia) August 29, 2019
The letter read, via the Daily Caller: “Multiple courts have held that public officials’ social media accounts constitute public forums when they are used in the way that you use the @AOC account, and they have made clear that public officials violate the First Amendment when they block users from these forums on the basis of viewpoint.”
The Democratic congresswoman responded, claiming she was not blocking many people and that those she did choose to block provided justifiable reason to do so.
“I have 5.2 million followers. Less than 20 accounts are blocked for ongoing harassment. 0 are my constituents,” she tweeted, before claiming she did bar some accounts for harassing her. “Harassment is not a viewpoint. Some accounts, like the Daily Caller, posted fake nude photos of me & abused my comments to spread it. No one is entitled to abuse.”
People are free to speak whatever classist, racist, false, misogynistic, bigoted comments they’d like.
They do not have the right to force others to endure their harassment and abuse. ✌🏽
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 29, 2019
Correcting her grammar, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham responded: “Fewer than 20 accounts….”
The comment provoked Ocasio-Cortez to fire back:
See? You’re a neo-Nazi fan favorite and I don’t block you for defending white supremacist viewpoints and mocking gun violence survivors. https://t.co/007audZvgj
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 30, 2019
Despite the congresswoman’s insulting language, any blocking of people from her Twitter account is in violation of court precedent. An official social media account of a member of the government, or a personal one used in an official manner, constitutes a public forum. And, thus, barring individuals from speaking on the forum would violate the First Amendment to free speech.
“While we understand that you have another account that is nominally your ‘official’ one, the fact remains that you use the @AOC account as an extension of your office,” the letter from Knight First Amendment Institute continued. “Notably, the Second Circuit rejected President Trump’s argument that his account is a personal one even though he has other accounts — @POTUS and @WhiteHouse — that are nominally official.”
The Daily Caller adds:
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in July that it is unconstitutional for President Donald Trump to block critics on Twitter. Like Ocasio-Cortez, the president argued that he is at liberty to block whoever he likes from his personal @realDonaldTrump account. The Knight Center represented the plaintiffs in that lawsuit.
The 2nd Circuit ruled for the plaintiffs. The three-judge panel said the digital space attending each tweet, where users can post responses and interact with one another, is a public forum where the First Amendment applies. A public forum is a space where free speech protections are at their highest.