Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Apologizes And Unblocks Critic Who Sued Her
from the a-step-in-the-right-direction dept
Right after Donald Trump lost the case against him for blocking people on Twitter, we noted that Dov Hikind, a critic of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez launched a similar lawsuit against her for blocking him. Again — because it’s important to repeat — the court rulings in the Trump case made it clear that politicians who used Twitter for part of their job representing the public could not block people, as that’s a violation of the 1st Amendment. The specific criteria laid out by the courts were that (1) if you’re a public official, and (2) using social media (3) for official purposes (4) to create a space of open dialogue, then you cannot block people from following you based on the views they express.
It appeared that the @AOC account met all of the criteria, and therefore should not be able to block critics for expressing their dislike of her stances or policies. Ocasio-Cortez, on her part, stood by her right to block people by claiming that she only blocked 20 people, none were constituents, and that they were only blocked for harassment which, she argued, was “not a viewpoint” (i.e., this wasn’t viewpoint discrimination). Either way, just as the Hikind case was about to go to trial, Ocasio-Cortez has settled the case, admitted she was wrong to block Hikind and apologized:
?Mr. Hikind has a First Amendment right to express his views and should not be blocked for them,? the Queens-Bronx congresswoman said. ?In retrospect, it was wrong and improper and does not reflect the values I cherish. I sincerely apologize for blocking Mr. Hikind.?
The Knight 1st Amendment Institute, which had brought the lawsuit against Trump and had sent Ocasio-Cortez a letter arguing that she was incorrect to block people with her account, announced that they were happy with this result. According to their Senior Staff Attorney, Katie Fallow:
?We applaud Rep. Ocasio-Cortez for recognizing that she was wrong to block critics from her Twitter account. As the courts have affirmed, when public officials use their social media accounts to carry out official duties, they create a public forum and can?t prevent people from participating simply because they don?t like what they?re saying. We hope that other public officials who are blocking critics from their social media accounts take Ocasio-Cortez?s lead.?
That said, while this case was settled and Ocasio-Cortez admitted to being wrong, she still seems to be standing by the idea that she can block some users:
?I reserve the right to block users who engage in actual harassment or exploit my personal/campaign account, @AOC, for commercial or other improper purposes,? she said.
There might be cases where it would not be a 1st Amendment violation to block users, but the details would matter quite a bit — and the argument that harassment, by itself, would constitute a reason for blocking seems iffy, at best. Same with “exploit[ing]” her account “for commercial or other improper purposes.” It will be interesting to see if other such cases are brought, or if the @AOC account choose to block others in the future.