Can politicians block people on social media?

All photos by Celeste Sloman

Can politicians block people on social media?

Rep. Peter King is facing backlash for blocking people on Facebook.
April 26, 2019

U.S. Rep. Peter King, who represents parts of Long Island, is facing backlash for blocking Facebook users from his page, a move that has the New York Civil Liberties Union threatening to sue, saying the actions violate the First Amendment.

The controversy echoes a now year-long battle between President Donald Trump and Twitter users who say the president has violated the First Amendment by blocking them from his Twitter account. In March of last year, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York agreed with the president’s spurned Twitter users, saying that Trump cannot block users from viewing his Twitter account because that account is a public forum. The president then appealed that ruling, and the case was heard again before a three-judge panel in Manhattan earlier this month.

King’s current First Amendment battle – while not dissimilar from Trump’s – may take a different course. King has argued that he can block Facebook users because the account in question is a campaign account, not one being used in an official government capacity. Whether that argument holds up – in the event that the NYCLU does sue – remains to be seen. What’s clear is that as long as social media remains as ubiquitous as it is now, these legal battles will set precedents for years to come.

For the rest of today's tech news, head over to First Read Tech.

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