First Amendment and elected officials’ social media

Whether elected officials can block citizens from their Facebook pages has been a top topic.

In July, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in the case, Knight First Amendment Institute v. Trump, upholding a lower court ruling that President Donald Trump couldn’t block people on Twitter, citing “unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.”

The court did not take a stance on banning users from a private account or whether the First Amendment governed speech on social media platforms.

Judge Barrington Parker wrote, “We do conclude, however, that the First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise‐open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees.”

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University had sued the president on behalf of seven Twitter users who had been blocked by Trump after tweeting critical messages.

In late August,  the Justice Department asked for another hearing before the judges and argued that because the @realDonaldTrump account is not owned by the federal government and has been operated by Trump in a personal capacity for years, the president can control who can have access to it.


In January, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the interactive component of a Virginia county commissioner’s Facebook page was a public forum subject to First Amendment protections. Specifically, the court ruled that the chair engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination when banning the citizen from that forum.

Also in January, a federal judge ruled that three Republican members of the Wisconsin State Assembly violated the First Amendment rights of a liberal advocacy group by blocking the group’s account from their respective Twitter pages.


This past summer, State Rep. Mike Hill drew criticism for blocking his fellow lawmakers from his twitter account when Hill was blasted for <a href=”″ target=”_blank”>his reactions when audience member at a speaking engagement said the Bible condoned killing gays</a>. Hill has since deleted his Twitter account.

Other lawsuits have sprung up around the country.

State Rep. Chuck Clemons is being sued in federal court by Gainesville resident Peter Morgan Attwood after Attwood was blocked on Twitter by Clemons for asking the lawmaker to explain a 2018 vote.

Lone Star Gun Rights co-founders Justin Delosh and Jason Davis filed suit against Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Lake Jackson) after he blocked them and their group’s Facebook account from commenting on his public Facebook page.

Anne Landman is suing Colorado State Senator Ray Scott after he banned her from his official Twitter and Facebook accounts two years ago.