AOC’s Twitter blocking sparks ongoing debate

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez listens to witnesses in a House Oversight Committee hearing.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez listens to witnesses in a House Oversight Committee hearing.
aschwaphoto/Shutterstock

AOC’s Twitter blocking sparks ongoing debate

Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute sent Ocasio-Cortez a letter asking her to stop blocking certain followers.
September 3, 2019

When a federal appeals panel ruling in July found that President Trump’s blocking of Twitter followers for criticizing or mocking him was unconstitutional, it didn’t take long for similar scrutiny to fall on the Democrats’ own Twitter giant, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Two lawsuits were quickly filed against the freshman lawmaker for allegedly blocking critics from her personal Twitter account. One of those lawsuits came from former New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who claims he was blocked for “opinions he expressed” about her. In early August, AOC asked a federal judge to dismiss Hikind’s case, saying that she hadn’t been properly served with the suit. 

But last week, the debate over whether Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter actions mirrored Donald Trump’s continued, when Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute sent Ocasio-Cortez a letter asking her to stop blocking certain followers. The Knight Institute is the same group that won the suit against Trump for blocking followers from his personal Twitter account. While Trump’s attorneys tried to draw a distinction between the president’s personal Twitter account (63.8 million followers) and his official government account (26.6 million followers), the court ruled that because Trump was using his personal account as a public forum, blocking followers still violated the First Amendment.

Quartz reported that Ocasio-Cortez’s representation has also tried to make a similar distinction between the congresswoman’s personal and official accounts. Her personal account boasts 5.3 million followers, while her official account has just shy of 189,000 followers.

Ocasio-Cortez took to her favorite forum last week to speak directly to the issue, saying that she has only blocked harassers, none of whom were her own constituents. “There’s a distinction between civility and harassment,” Ocasio-Cortez added on Saturday.

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Annie McDonough
Annie McDonough
is a tech and policy reporter at City & State.
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