‘There’s a right to petition the government, but there’s no right to be heard—there’s no right for them to listen to you…’
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) Rep. Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez, D-NY, blocked a conservative news site on Twitter after it called her out, and now some legal experts have said she could be taken to court.
But last year, a federal court in New York ruled that it’s unconstitutional for federal officials to prevent critics from interacting with their accounts, specifically ruling against President Donald Trump.
The court ruled that when the president and other public officials use online forums like Twitter and Facebook, they’re subject to the First Amendment, even if officials use them in their personal capacity.
Another court, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled in January that a local elected official in Virginia violated the First Amendment by blocking a constituent on Facebook.
Katie Fallow, a senior attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute, told Business Insider that the same rules apply to Ocasio–Cortez.
“When you use a social media account in a way that makes it like a virtual town, you can’t kick people out of that town hall,” Fallow said.
Hannah Bloch–Webha, a law professor at Drexel University, agreed and said prior First Amendment rulings have clear implications for Ocasio–Cortez if she refuses to un-block the Daily Caller.
“I think pretty clearly she’s blurring the lines between what’s strictly campaigning, what’s personal expression, and what’s her official account as a member of Congress,” Bloch–Wehba told Business Insider. “The idea you could selectively discriminate on the basis of viewpoints just because someone doesn’t live in the district seems problematic to me.”
Another legal expert, Ken White, a First Amendment law and criminal defense attorney, disagreed and said Trump and Ocasio–Cortez haven’t violated the First Amendment rights of those they’ve blocked.
“It doesn’t stop anyone from speaking—it’s a choice by one particular person not to interact with this other person,” he said. “There’s a right to petition the government, but there’s no right to be heard—there’s no right for them to listen to you.”