Members of the South Carolina House of Representatives’ GOP caucus got an earful this week on the dangers associated with banning critics from their social media pages.
According to multiple lawmakers familiar with the discussion – held in a closed-door caucus meeting – speaker Jay Lucas wanted House Republicans to know just how costly such bans could wind up being in the aftermath of recent federal court rulings.
Just last month, the U.S. fourth circuit court of appeals in Richmond, Virginia ruled (.pdf) that Facebook pages of local officials “bear the hallmarks of a public forum,” and that banning or blocking users was an unconstitutional encroachment of free speech.
We concur …
That ruling was consistent with an earlier New York district court decision which found that U.S. president Donald Trump’s twitter page was a “designated public forum.”
The Knight Institute at Columbia University – which opposes social media bans imposed by politicians – praised the fourth circuit ruling, with its senior attorney Katie Fallow saying the decision “confirms that the First Amendment prohibits government censorship on new communications platforms.”
Again, we concur …
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As of this writing at least two members of the S.C. House – representatives Alan Clemmons and John King – block this news outlet on Twitter. Until recently, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley blocked us as well.
Do we care? No. Irrespective of its constitutionality/ legality, we believe banning or blocking people on social media due to political disagreements is childish – and indicative of weakness and/ or fear on the part of the individual doing the censoring.
Accordingly, we view being blocked or banned by an elected official on social media as a badge of honor – although we would certainly welcome expanded access to elected officials’ online platforms if the court system saw fit to provide such access.
Either way, though … it has never occurred to us to file a lawsuit demanding that a politician “unblock” us. Because that strikes us as every bit as childish as blocking someone in the first place. Even if we do have a case.
As for this news outlet, we would never ban or block anyone unless we believed there was some sort of credible threat involving us or our family members – and even in a situation like that, we would likely try and give the individual multiple chances to resolve the issue.
We have always believed in the power of the marketplace of ideas, which is why on social media (here and here) and on these pages we not only invite – but actively encourage – the expression of opinions that run counter to those of our own.
If our ideas have merit, then they should be able to withstand all manner of criticism and scrutiny …
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