from the unblock-people dept
This weekend, Representative Thomas Massie got an awful lot of attention for tweeting a picture of what I guess is his family holding a bunch of guns. It generated a bunch of outrage, which is exactly why Massie did it. When the culture war and “owning” your ideological opponents is more important than actually doing your job, you get things like that. Some might find it a vaguely inappropriate to show off your arsenal of weaponry just days after yet another school shooting, in which the teenager who shot up a school similarly paraded his weapon on social media before killing multiple classmates, but if that’s the kind of message that Massie wants to send, the 1st Amendment and the 2nd Amendment allow him to reveal himself as just that kind of person.
However, as someone who continually presents himself as “a strict constitutionalist,” it’s odd that Massie seems to skip over the 1st Amendment in his rush to fetishize the 2nd. That’s why the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University has now sent a letter on my behalf to Rep. Massie letting him know that he is violating the 1st Amendment in blocking me and many others on Twitter.
To be honest, I had avoided tweeting about Massie’s armory family portrait, because the whole thing was just such a blatant cry for attention. But then I saw that some other users on Twitter were highlighting that Massie was blocking them — in some cases because they had tweeted at Massie a remixed version of the portrait, replacing the guns with penises. I made no comment on his photo, or his desperately pathetic desire to “own the libs” or whatever he thought he was doing. But I did tweet at him to inform him that under Knight v. Trump, he appeared to be violating the 1st amendment rights of those he was blocking.
He appears to meet the conditions laid out in that and other rulings on this issue. Massie is a government official, who uses his Twitter account for conducting official government business, and who is then blocking users based on their viewpoints.
In response to me pointing out that it violates the 1st Amendment for him to block people in this way… Rep. Massie blocked me.
Seems a bit ironic for a “strict Constitutionalist” to block someone for merely pointing out that public officials blocking someone via their official government accounts violates the 1st Amendment. But, I guess that’s the kind of “strict Constitutionalist” that Rep. Thomas Massie is. One who will support just the rights he wants to support, and will quickly give up the other ones, so long as he can be seen to be winning whatever culture war he thinks he’s waging.
This is pretty unfortunate. For all of Massie’s other nonsense, he has actually been quite good in defending the 4th Amendment rights of the American public against surveillance. Perhaps he only believes in the even-numbered Amendments?
Either way, our letter points out that his actions appear to violate the 1st Amendment, and asks that he unblocks me and everyone else that he has chosen to block.
Multiple courts have held that public officials? social media accounts constitute public forums when they are used in the way that you use the @RepThomasMassie account, and they have made clear that public officials violate the First Amendment when they block users from these fora on the basis of viewpoint. For example, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reached this conclusion in Knight Institute v. Trump, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reached this conclusion in Davison v. Randall. The principles articulated in these cases apply here. In both of these cases, and in many others, courts have held that the First Amendment binds public officials who use their social media accounts in furtherance of official duties, and that public officials act unconstitutionally when they block individuals from these accounts on the basis of viewpoint.
Again, we ask that you unblock the Twitter account @mmasnick and any other Twitter accounts that have been blocked by you or your staff from the @RepThomasMassie account based on viewpoint.