December 12, 2020
ELK GROVE, Calif – Despite requests from concerned citizens at the December 9th city council meeting that the newly elected mayor unblock them from her social media accounts, Mayor Singh-Allen continues to block and silence the voice of the people. The most recent incident occurred on Friday, December 11, 2020, when Elk Grove Hmong Americans followed Mayor Singh-Allen’s Twitter and Instagram accounts. Within a few hours, we found ourselves blocked.
The question remains: Can Mayor Singh-Allen block the voice of the people on social media?
One of the fundamental purposes of the First Amendment is to give the people the right to “petition the Government for redress of grievances.”
On July 11, 2017, the Knight Institute filed a lawsuit against President Trump for blocking seven people from his Twitter account. (Knight First Amendment Inst. at Columbia Univ. v. Trump, 2017). The courts ruled that President Trump blocking people from his Twitter account because of their expressed political views violated the First Amendment.
On January 30, 2019, Tanya Faison and Sonia Lewis filed a lawsuit against Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones (Faison v. Jones, 2019) contending that Sheriff Jones deleted their posts and banned them from his Facebook page. Faison and Lewis asserted that Sheriff Jones denied them of their right to free speech under the First Amendment. On February 19, 2020, the court ordered Sheriff Jones to “unban Faison and Lewis from his Facebook page, retain them in unbanned status, and take no further action restricting their participation.”
These two cases indicate that elected officials such as Mayor Singh-Allen should be cognizant of the legal ramifications associated with blocking people on social media. Once an elected official uses his/her social media account(s) to promote, voice, and interact with users in an official capacity, the account qualifies as a public forum. The blocking and exclusion of users based on viewpoints and criticism can lead to serious repercussions by the courts as the courts have ruled that it is unconstitutional and a violation of a person’s First Amendment rights.