First Amendment Lawyers Issue Warning to AOC About Blocking Twitter Critics


A public interest group specializing in First Amendment issues warned Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that blocking users from her @AOC Twitter account is, in their view, unlawful.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University told the congresswoman in a letter Wednesday that blocking social media critics constitutes unlawful viewpoint discrimination.

“Multiple courts have held that public officials’ social media accounts constitute public forums when they are used in the way that you use the @AOC account, and they have made clear that public officials violate the First Amendment when they block users from these forums on the basis of viewpoint,” the letter reads.

The freshman Democrat has argued that the @AOC handle is a personal social media account, as opposed to her @RepAOC account.

“While we understand that you have another account that is nominally your ‘official’ one, the fact remains that you use the @AOC account as an extension of your office,” the letter reads. “Notably, the Second Circuit rejected President Trump’s argument that his account is a personal one even though he has other accounts — @POTUS and @WhiteHouse — that are nominally official.”

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Ocasio-Cortez responded on Twitter.

Do you think it's a violation of the First Amendment for Ocasio-Cortez to block people on Twitter?

“I have 5.2 million followers,” she said. “Less than 20 accounts are blocked for ongoing harassment. 0 are my constituents.”

The congresswoman added, “Harassment is not a viewpoint,” falsely asserting that the Daily Caller published photographs depicting her in the nude.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in July that it is unconstitutional for President Donald Trump to block critics on Twitter.

Like Ocasio-Cortez, the president argued that he is at liberty to block whoever he likes from his personal @realDonaldTrump account.

The Knight Center represented the plaintiffs in that lawsuit.

The 2nd Circuit ruled for the plaintiffs. The three-judge panel said the digital space attending each tweet, where users can post responses and interact with one another, is a public forum where the First Amendment applies.

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A public forum is a space where free speech protections are at their highest.

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