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Ruling Against Facebook Ban Suggests Trump's Twitter Blocks Are Unconstitutional

A federal judge says personal pages used for public purposes implicate the First Amendment.

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Phyllis Randall, chair of the Loudon County, Virginia, Board of Supervisors, banned Brian Davison from her Facebook page for just 12 hours. But according to a federal judge in Alexandria, that brief banishment in February 2016 was enough to violate Davison's First Amendment rights. The ruling, published last week, reinforces the logic of a recent federal lawsuit claiming that Donald Trump engages in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination when he blocks critics on Twitter.

Randall banned Davison, a local gadfly, from her "Chair Phyllis J. Randall" Facebook page after he posted a comment suggesting that members of the Loudon County School Board had taken official actions that benefited their relatives. "If the Supreme Court's First Amendment jurisprudence makes anything clear, it is that speech may not be disfavored by the government simply because it offends," writes U.S. District Judge James Cacheris, a Reagan appointee, in his decision siding with Davison. "The suppression of critical commentary regarding elected officials is the quintessential form of viewpoint discrimination against which the First Amendment guards. By prohibiting Plaintiff from participating in her online forum because she took offense at his claim that her colleagues in the County government had acted unethically, Defendant committed a cardinal sin under the First Amendment."

Cacheris rejected Randall's contention that her Facebook page "is merely a personal website that she may do with as she pleases." He notes that she and her chief of staff created it shortly before she took office, that it it lists her official position and contact information, and that she uses it primarily for official purposes such as describing the supervisors' work, implementing their policies, documenting her appearances as a representative of the county government, and communicating with her constituents. "I really want to hear from ANY Loudoun citizen on ANY issues, request, criticism, compliment, or just your thoughts," she says in one post. "However, I really try to keep back and forth conversations (as opposed to one time information items such as road closures) on my county Facebook page (Chair Phyllis J. Randall) or County email (phyllis.randall@loudoun.gov)."

Randall's posts are generally addressed to "Loudon"—i.e., the general public in her county. The forum that she created on Facebook was open to everyone except for Davison, who by her own account offended her by criticizing her colleagues on the school board. "Plaintiff is the only person Defendant has ever banned from her Facebook page," Cacheris notes. Since Randall reconsidered that decision the next day, "the consequences of Defendant's actions were fairly minor." Even during the 12 hours when Davison was banned, he could still read and share Randall's posts, although he could not comment on them or send direct messages to her.

Cacheris nevertheless thought Randall's violation of the First Amendment was clear enough to grant Davison the declaratory judgment he requested. "Defendant acted under color of state law in maintaining her 'Chair Phyllis J. Randall' Facebook page and banning Plaintiff from that page," Cacheris concludes. "Defendant's actions violated Plaintiff's right of free speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, § 12 of the Constitution of Virginia." Although Cacheris did not say so explicitly, Davison's temporary exclusion also seems to implicate the First Amendment right to petitition the government for a redress of grievances, since she blocked him from one of two channels she identified for that purpose.

Donald Trump's Twitter account is similar to Randall's Facebook page is several significant ways. Although he created it years before he was elected president, the profile now identifies him by his public position and official address, and he uses the account mainly for official purposes, including the announcement of decisions, such as the appointment of a new FBI director and a ban on transgender soldiers, before they have been revealed elsewhere. Administration officials help maintain the account, which they explicitly describe as a way for Trump to communicate with his constituents.

All are welcome to participate in this forum except for the disfavored few who have said something that offended Trump, which is clearly a form of viewpoint discrimination. Like Davison when he was banned from Randall's Facebook page, the critics Trump blocks on Twitter can still see what he says, but they cannot directly participate in the debate it provokes on that platform. In short, if Cacheris is right that Randall's banishment of Davison was unconstitutional, it is hard to see how Trump's blocking of disfavored Twitter users can be legal.

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  1. Ruling Against Facebook Ban Suggests Trump’s Twitter Blocks Are Unconstitutional

    No, it doesn’t. Are we really going down the road of suggesting Social Networking sites are a public utility?

    All are welcome to participate in this forum except for the disfavored few who have said something that offended Trump, which is clearly a form of viewpoint discrimination.

    Yes, it is a form of viewpoint discrimination, but it’s not a first amendment violation. The technical issues here are important, and are being overlooked.

    Trump can’t ban a person, he can only ban an account. And by banning the account (especially in the medium of Twitter), you aren’t blocked from seeing Donald Trump’s tweets.

    This can and should be handled administratively, and the federal government is perfectly within its rights to make rules on how their employees conduct themselves on social networking platforms. But this is not, and never will be a first amendment issue.

    1. Thank you for that clarification. I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about this. But when I have, I knew something wasn’t right with the idea that this is a 1st Amendment violation. It almost strikes me as akin to banning CNN from a press conference. No one is stopping them from reporting the news. No one is stopping a person from creating a new account, or using someone else’s account, or for petitioning in any number of other ways.

      1. You could argue that the White House banning CNN from a press conference could be a 1st amendment issue. It’s a little shaky, but I’m more sympathetic to that.

        I argued in the last Reason post on this subject that the way Trump uses his personal twitter account can be considered an impeachable offense. But this is not within 10,000 yards of being a “first amendment” issue. And if it was seen as a first amendment issue, the unintended second-order effects on things like private property and the right to keep your communications secure and private will turn you pale.

        1. What’s your argument for it being impeachable?

          1. It’s often forgotten, or not known that anything can be an impeachable offense. There’s a popular myth that only explicitly illegal activity can result in impeachment. A president can be impeached simply if Congress doesn’t like him.

            Having said that, there’s an argument to be made that trumps undisciplined tweeting, and use of his private Twitter account as a quasi- official presidential communication outlet is an ethical breech. As such, if congress had the votes, he could be impeached for that. Further, impeachment is a process, not a result. If trump were impeached, he may survive the process.

            1. So claiming something is an impeachable offense is meaningless.

              That leaves open the question of why you said that.

            2. It’s often forgotten, or not known that anything can be an impeachable offense. There’s a popular myth that only explicitly illegal activity can result in impeachment. A president can be impeached simply if Congress doesn’t like him.

              It has to be high crimes and misdemeanors. The fact that there is no practical check on Congress’ impeachment powers with impunity (other than elections) and, does not mean that they are supposed to impeach for frivolous reasons.

            3. Sure he could be impeached, but he’ll never be covfefed.

        2. ‘..White House banning CNN from a press conference could be a 1st amendment issue.’

          don’t see it. The first amendment is a negative right that in most cases prohibits the government from preventing individuals or groups of from expressing political opinions. CNN isn’t being denied the right to pronounce their opinion. Freedom the Press isn’t an all access pass given Twitter verified members of the fourth estate like they would have you believe, it’s a prohibition on the government from preventing anyone and everyone from using mass communication to propogate their ideas, save some small exceptions.

          Trump can ban a person, from any interaction with him. There’s no right to petition the government for grievences case here. He has no duty to listen to whomever in any forum, but a court of law.

          ‘Nothing in the First Amendment or in this Court’s case law interpreting it suggests that the rights to speak, associate, and petition require government policymakers to listen or respond to communications of members of the public on public issues.’

          Minn. Bd. Commun. for Colleges v. Knight
          465 U.S. 271 (1984)

          the judge in this case came to his decision first and set about finding a way to shoehorn it into the law as you would 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag.

          1. The idea is that other people won’t see your retweet in Trump’s feed, not just that Trump doesn’t read them. It’s not petition that’s supposedly being quashed, only freedom of speech.

            1. THE FlRST AMENDMENT says you have the RlGHT to bug / criticize your elected reps AS MuCH AS Y0u WANT.

              “The RlGHT T0 PETlTl0N THE G0VT F0R A REDRESS 0F GRlEVANCES”.

              lf ANY P0L HAMPERED THAT RlGHT [as both Trump and the other pol above DlD], that’s a FEDERAL CRlME.

              Are we clear on this?

              WElRD THAT lTS THE C0NS WH0 DEFEND BlG G0VT while we libs hold govt accountable.

              Also, WH0 T0LD Y0u THAT FREE SPEECH ls a PARTlSAN lSSuE?

              B0TH PARTlES ARE CR00KED, so lt’s dishonest to pretend otherwise.

      2. THE G0VT CANN0T HlNDER FREE SPEECH.

        PERl0D.

        That local pols BL0CK taxpayers’ CRlTlCAL speech using PRlVATE companies (Twitter, Fascistbook) is M00T.

        our taxdollars FuNDED the creation of their accounts etc and the maintenance. Public PROPERTY.

        lf pols can’t handle that, QulT working as a Public SERVANT.

        Trump and the pol above were CLEARLY breaking the laws, and tried to weasel around free speech by claiming ” we’re using private companie to silence angry taxpayers!”

        ln fact, all Shouldv’e been ARRESTED —- JuST for Conspiracy to violate Fed laws!

    2. No, it doesn’t. Are we really going down the road of suggesting Social Networking sites are a public utility?

      If Trump had any brains at all, he’d immediately suggest this. The limpouts from the left would be amazing.

    3. Some NGO’s actually require you to use facebook for access to their information,NGO’s that are often required to work with the government. so yes in those cases facebook and others become a utility for that purpose.

    4. Not only can they still see his tweets, but they can certainly tweet whatever the heck they want on their own feed…

    5. “Ruling Against Facebook Ban Suggests Trump’s Twitter Blocks Are Unconstitutional

      No, it doesn’t. Are we really going down the road of suggesting Social Networking sites are a public utility?”

      I think that you really mean that you disagree with the ruling. And, I’m generally inclined to agree with you in that sense. But, there is now a ruling in federal court that says that type of behavior is unconstitutional. So, I think the main point of the article is noting that such a ruling exists. Sullum explains the ruling and the link to Trump. He doesn’t really offer much opinion on the ruling. Key point is the “if” in the last sentence.

      “In short, if Cacheris is right that Randall’s banishment of Davison was unconstitutional, it is hard to see how Trump’s blocking of disfavored Twitter users can be legal.”

    6. TWlTTER, FB, and the rest BEC0ME PUBLlC UTlLlTlES THE M0MENT G0VT UTlLlZES THEM.

      CAPlCHE?

      That’s WHY they Used them! T0 spread G0VT LlES.

      1. Putting your comments in ALL CAPS does not make them any more cogent, thoughtful or impressive. The name of this site is “Reason”, not “Howling”.

  2. It woukd seem that Board of Supervisors Chair did not create the Facebook account separate from her office, therefore, it was the creature of the office, not the woman. Trump created his Twitter account as a private citizen, it the creature if the man, not the office of POTUS.

    The lawsuit against Trump suggests that a government official cannot have personal social media accounts separate from the office they occupy. That seems a terrible idea.

    1. “[…] suggests that a government official cannot have personal social media accounts separate from the office they occupy.”

      Nah. They can, they just need to keep work stuff on the work account, and private/personal stuff on the private/personal account.

      It’s when folks blur the line between the two that we run into problems.

      1. Still not a first amendment issue. Again, impeachable offense? 100% First amendment issue? No.

        1. H0W lS lT N0T A FlRST AMENDMENT lSSvE?

          lF TRvMP EVER vses hs “PRVATE” Twtter fr “PBLC” Bsness, t NSTANTLY becmes sbject t PBLC LAWS.

          CAPlCHE?

          The M0MENT DT used lt for G0VT biz, lts contents become G0VT / PuBLlC PR0PERTY.

          AND N0 P0L CAN BL0CK ANGRY C0MMENTS WHEN D0lNG G0VT BlZ.

          Are we clear 0n thls?

          1. pard0n crappy Apple $$$$ keyb0ards that glltch!

    2. I think an additionally massive hurdle (or some hurdles) being leapt here as well is that Phyllis Randall and the Loudon County, Virginia, Board of Supervisors can, quite conceivably, conduct the totality of their public business through Twitter while the President, Constitutionally, cannot.

  3. They call this “distinguished” in legal circles because it really has nothing to do with any legal case that might arise from civil lawsuit for Trump blocking followers on his private Twitter account.

  4. Why does this ruling “suggest” that Trump banning trolls on twitter is unconstitutional? The ruling is nonsensical and unconstitutional. If a federal judge strikes down legal pot in CO for some BS reason, what should be the headline? “Ruling by court suggests selling recreational drugs now illegal”?

    I know what it was trying to convey, but it’s strange.

    1. What? Do you think this is a libertarian site or something? Bwahaha.

    2. TWlTTER, FB, and the rest BEC0ME PUBLlC UTlLlTlES THE M0MENT G0VT UTlLlZES THEM.

      CAPlCHE?

      That’s WHY they Used them! T0 spread G0VT LlES.

    3. H0W lS lT N0T A FlRST AMENDMENT lSSvE?

      lF TRUMP EVER uses his “PRlVATE” Twltter for “PUBLlC” Business, lt lNSTANTLY becomes subject to PUBLlC LAWS.

      CAPlCHE?

      The M0MENT DT used lt for G0VT biz, lts contents become G0VT / PuBLlC PR0PERTY.

      AND N0 P0L CAN BL0CK ANGRY C0MMENTS WHEN D0lNG G0VT BlZ.

      Are we clear 0n thls?

  5. The distinction here is that the Facebook page was one of two officially listed methods for constituents to contact their representative.

    I don’t know if Trump has any official way for constituents to contact him. He doesn’t even do the fundraiser thing all that much. Plus, although he has made policy pronouncements on Twitter, it is not primarily a POTUS forum, it is primarily an old man crank parody performance art piece.

    This Nexus of constituent contact would suggest that the court thinks failing to answer the phone is a first amendment issue.

    1. lN FACT, lF THE PuBLlC SERVANT doesn’t answer the phone, how is that N0T lLLEGAL??

      We PAY you to “represent” us, see?

      You seem to think Blg Govt can just ignore it’s B0SS, the taxpayer.

      CREEPY.

      (l’m guessing you lean RlGHT, hence you siding w Big Govt agaln.)

  6. 1. By this logic, Twitter can’t ban any users because then they wouldn’t have access to speak their minds on the public forum inside Twitter. Either these Twitter feeds are public forums or they’re not — you can’t say it’s a public forum when Trump blocks someone but it’s private property when Twitter does.

    2. On that note, how is Trump’s Twitter feed any more of a public forum than other celebrities’ or popular organizations’ feeds? This logic means that no sufficiently popular Twitter user can block people.

    3. The fact that Twitter is a private company is irrelevant. Trump isn’t using any official powers to have a Twitter account or to attract followers. People freely choose to follow his tweets, despite not gaining any privileges thereby.

    4. Politicians have been preventing critics from attending their rallies for ages. Is the court going to reverse that jurisprudence in general, or is this just an opportunity to fuck with Trump using a shoddy legal theory?

    1. ^This.

      David Weigel banned me from his Twitter feed because I suggested he try “Pro-Active”. I think my 1st Amendment rights were violated because he works for one of the most influential papers in the country…

    2. H0W lS lT N0T A FlRST AMENDMENT lSSuE?

      lF TRUMP EVER uses his “PRlVATE” Twltter for “PUBLlC” Business, lt lNSTANTLY becomes subject to PUBLlC LAWS.

      CELEBRlTlES ARE N0T G0VT EMPL0YEES.

      CAPlCHE?

      The M0MENT DT used lt for G0VT biz, lts contents become G0VT / PuBLlC PR0PERTY.

      AND N0 P0L CAN BL0CK ANGRY C0MMENTS WHEN D0lNG G0VT BlZ.

      Are we clear 0n thls?

  7. I agree that this is not a 1A case for reasons cited above. The funny thing is that the SJW’s “win” that will open the door for all those guilty of crimethink, i.e. Milo, Vox Day, and other alt-right deplorables to sue.

    1. H0W lS lT N0T A FlRST AMENDMENT lSSuE?

      lF TRUMP EVER uses his “PRlVATE” Twltter for “PUBLlC” Business, lt lNSTANTLY becomes subject to PUBLlC LAWS.

      CELEBRlTlES ARE N0T G0VT EMPL0YEES.

      CAPlCHE?

      The M0MENT DT used lt for G0VT biz, lts contents become G0VT / PuBLlC PR0PERTY.

      AND N0 P0L CAN BL0CK ANGRY C0MMENTS WHEN D0lNG G0VT BlZ.

      PLEASE EXPLAlN WHAT lS C0NFvSlNG AB0vT THE DlF TWEEN G0VT EMPL0YEES and every0ne else.

  8. Why are so many commenters disagreeing with Reason’s argument? It seems fairly clear:

    The “Redress of Grievances” clause in the 1A pretty clearly guarantees access to any *major* forum a government official uses to discuss political issues.

    Trump’s account is self-evidently his *very-most-favorite* public forum. And unlike Vox Day, Milo, and such, Trump is, believe it or not, the President of the United States. If we can’t all agree that the President is a “government official”, then we really may as well go ahead and invoke the 2nd amendment, because clearly ain’t nobody gon’ be agreein’ on anything.

    And while citizens can still see his tweets, the inability of the people he blocks to *respond* means their right to “petition” has been violated.

    Finally, there is no possible argument for a “chilling effect” on private forums, so long as the Redress Clause is levelled exclusively at incumbent officials of the government.

    1. Trump is President, but the man and the office are not thhe same. The President’s personal effects and possesions do not become public property just because he holds the office. Trump may be using his Twitter account imoroperly in conjunction with his job, but it is not a 1st Amendment issue as it is not an ofgicial government account.

      1. Except that the Twitter account is most certainly not Trump’s personal property, because Twitter’s TOS does not give people ownership of their account. Your position is like claiming that Trump has no obligation to accept delivery of mail addressed to the President because he was using the US Postal Service as a private citizen before becoming president.

        1. Trump is not violating the twitter TOS–people can block other people on twitter.

          Thanks for playing.

          1. H0W lS lT N0T A FlRST AMENDMENT lSSuE?

            lF TRUMP EVER uses his “PRlVATE” Twltter for “PUBLlC” Business, lt lNSTANTLY becomes subject to PUBLlC LAWS.

            CELEBRlTlES ARE N0T G0VT EMPL0YEES.

            CAPlCHE?

            The M0MENT DT used lt for G0VT biz, lts contents become G0VT / PuBLlC PR0PERTY.

            AND N0 P0L CAN BL0CK ANGRY C0MMENTS WHEN D0lNG G0VT BlZ.

            Are we clear 0n thls?

    2. Excellent points. It should also be added that neither this case nor the Trump/Twitter case says anything about what private businesses may do with social media platforms that they operate because in neither this case nor the Trump/Twitter case are the plaintiffs accused of violating the terms of service for the sites and no one is arguing that Facebook or Twitter can’t ban users for violating their TOS. The issue is whether public officials who choose to use such sites to conduct official business can block people from contacting them, accessing their otherwise publicly posted material, etc.

      P.S. Since this is always a popular “clever” analogy when the public forum subject comes up and I see people are already making it again above — banning a reporter from attending a press conference is, in fact, potentially a First Amendment violation per Sherrill v. Knight, 569 F.2d 124 (D.C. Cir. 1977), depending on why the reporter was banned and what the circumstances of banning the reporter were.

      1. A better analogy would be a mayor who holds a town hall on his private property. They could ban someone from stepping foot on their property for a bunch of non-viewpoint reasons (didn’t register, failed to bring a pot luck item, etc) but not because they are the lone libertarian nut job who opposes the sales tax hike.

    3. Why are so many commenters disagreeing with Reason’s argument? It seems fairly clear:

      You would think from the first five words it would be clear, “Congress shall make no law”. I strongly suspect you are being disingenuous but it could just be sloppy thinking. The reason I suspect lying is because you say “petition” rather than petition. Tweeting (back) at The President is not (necessarily) how one formally requests redress for grievances.

      The President can Tweet on all the red stapler policy he likes and no one is required to listen. He’s not required to take anyone’s advice with regard to his red stapler policy. Just like anyone and everyone else on Twitter. What you’re proposing would require some manner of mandatory Twitter consumption (Congress would *have* to listen to my/our red stapler policy!) and probably require some compulsory action on the part of Twitter.

      The President is a government official. The more intrinsic weight and institution you fortify behind his every tweet makes things worse, not better.

      1. H0W lS lT N0T A FlRST AMENDMENT lSSuE?

        lF TRUMP EVER uses his “PRlVATE” Twltter for “PUBLlC” Business, lt lNSTANTLY becomes subject to PUBLlC LAWS.

        CELEBRlTlES ARE N0T G0VT EMPL0YEES.

        CAPlCHE?

        The M0MENT DT used lt for G0VT biz, lts contents become G0VT / PuBLlC PR0PERTY.

        AND N0 P0L CAN BL0CK ANGRY C0MMENTS WHEN D0lNG G0VT BlZ.

        Are we clear 0n thls?

      2. I wrote “petition” in quotation marks because I realize the Founders probably didn’t have the word “retweet” in mind when they framed the First Amendment. Then again, they didn’t have the Armalite Rifle 15 in mind either, and what is the libertarian position on that again?

        Neither the First nor Second Amendment has a technological cut-off. Trump’s Twitter account isn’t just A public forum he uses, it is his ABSOLUTELY-MOST-FAVORITE forum, by his own admission! He makes every important announcement there first.

        And while you can argue, correctly, that the President has no obligation to make all of his announcements open to “back-and-forth”- he has no obligation to take questions when he makes a speech- he DOES take questions and requests (synonym for “petition”) on Twitter… But *only from his supporters*. Which means HE has chosen to turn his account into a “public forum”, only to then discriminate against opposing views. And THAT is bring-the-gavel-down unconstitutional.

    4. Why are so many commenters disagreeing with Reason’s argument?

      Because the two cases are actually quite different.

      Randall invited constituents to contact her via her Facebook account as an official channel.

      The only statement I’ve seen about Trump’s personal Twitter account is that his tweets are official statements. To the best of my knowlege, he hasn’t stated that his personal Twitter account is an official medium to contact him or even unofficially invited people to use it to contact him.

      1. 1
        HAS DT vSED HlS PERS0NAL TWlTTER AT ANY TlME F0R G0VT REAS0NS (0f ANY klnd)?

        WE ALL AGREE: YES.

        2
        THEN THlS MAKES lT N0 L0NGER A “PERS0NAL” ACC0uNT, by law.

        The tweets are all PvBLlC PR0PERTY n0w. GET lT?

        (N0 one forced him to be a PuBLlC SERVANT, DlD THEY?)

        3
        THE M0MENT HE USED HlS TWlTTER F0R ANY G0VT 0r P0TUSA M0VES, was the M0MENT he could no longer BL0CK ANGRY TAXPAYERS’ angry cmments, who are literally his B0SS.

        LlTERALLY.

        (ln a better w0rld, ANY pol would be FlRED the flrst tlme they blew 0ff thelr employer, no ?)

        THlS HAS N0THlNG T0 D0 WlTH TRuMP, as ALL g0vt thugs lLLEGALLY bl0ck thelr crltlcs.

        Hlllary dld these crimes too!

  9. Freedom the Press isn’t an all access pass given Twitter verified members of the fourth estate like they would have you believe, it’s a prohibition on the government from preventing anyone and everyone from using mass communication to propogate their ideas, save some small exceptions.
    http://www.allformtemplates.co…..templates/

  10. Disclosure – I do not have, nor have I ever had, any ‘social media’ account, so I am speaking from hearsay.

    How does ‘blocking’ someone from a specific twitter account suppress that person’s first amendment rights??!
    My understanding is that a blocked person does not lose their own account, from which they may still exercise their first amendment rights. It sounds like these people are claiming that the first amendment somehow gives them the right to force others to listen to their rants. That would be like them giving a speech, and forcing Trump to attend.
    Before the last eight years, I would have laughed at the concept. Now I wonder if I may be required to create a twitter account so I can be forced to listen to idiots.

    1. The First Amendment expressly includes the right to petition the government. In both this case and the Trump/Twitter case a public official is using a particular communications channel to not just communicate with the public but to receive communications from them, i.e., to accept “petitions.” If the member of the board of supervisors or Trump had blocked everyone and just used the relevant sites as one-way communication channels their position that there’s no First Amendment issue would be much, much stronger because then they would not be selectively banning particular individuals from trying to petition them on that particular site.

      1. But that doesn’t work as a consistent principle either, unless the claim is made that this forum is the only means of petitioning the government. For if the forum is not the only means of petition, then banning them from the forum does not deny their right to petition. If the claim is put forth that preventing people from using their preferred forum to petition the government is an undue burden on their right of petition, then government officials could never deny entrance to their offices to any private citizen who at any time wished to speak with them. But on its face this is ridiculous: no one would advocate that a citizen has a right to an audience with an official, let alone at a time and place of their choosing. This means there are limits on the means by which a citizen may petition the government, and that the government official themselves have a hand in determining these limits. There are arguments to be had on where it is most appropriate to draw these limits, but I would think that blocking someone on twitter would be acceptable.

        1. I think what you are missing is the ‘viewpoint discrimination’ portion of blocking. The right to petition the government doesn’t mean that the government gets to decide whose opinion can be heard in which venue. It doesn’t get to say ‘democrats can speak before the city council during a town hall but libertarians have to write a letter.’

          Public officials can set reasonable limits on access to them or opportunities to provide feedback in an open setting (only between certain hours, must make an appointment, only can speak for 2 minutes, etc) but they can’t exclude people from a particular forum purely because that person disagrees with them.

          From what facts were presented for this case, the judge made the right call. That facebook page was obviously being treated by the official as an open forum. She can disallow all commenting or block people for objective reasons (swearing, not talking about Loudon county business), but not because she doesn’t like the content of what they said. Whether Trump’s twitter account is a similar open forum would depend on the facts which I don’t care enough to know.

      2. In both this case and the Trump/Twitter case a public official is using a particular communications channel to not just communicate with the public but to receive communications from them, i.e., to accept “petitions.” If the member of the board of supervisors or Trump had blocked everyone and just used the relevant sites as one-way communication channels their position that there’s no First Amendment issue would be much, much stronger

        So what you’re saying is that wedding cake businesses can’t be forced to cater to gay weddings.

        1. N0.

          WE’RE SAYlNG THAT lF THE G0VT 0VTLAWS SLAVERY, “PRlVATE” lNDlVlDvALS 0r CAKE BlZes CANN0T ENGAGE lN SLAVERY.

          1A 0VTLAWS ANY G0VT EMPL0YEE FR0M CENS0RlNG TAXPAYERS.

          PERl0D.

          Twltter, FB, and the rest sh0vld als0 be SvED f0r asslstlng ln fed crlmes!

          (F0RGlVE my jvnk Apple keyb0ard.)

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