President Donald Trump got in trouble for blocking Americans on Twitter and now a fellow Republican is coming under fire for doing the same on Facebook.
According to RollCall, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), constituents in the Third District are complaining they’ve been blocked from contacting their official on Facebook. Now the gripe could lead to a lawsuit.
King has blocked approximately 70 residents in his district from the “Congressman Peter King” Facebook page, the New York ACLU said in a release. It’s a clear violation of their First Amendment rights.
“Like ejecting them from that town hall, banning users from your Facebook page stifles their ability to weigh in on your work on their behalf,” the organization told King in a letter. “It limits their participation in our democratic process, striking at the heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee.”
After the law repealing the Affordable Care Act passed the House, King was caught deleting comments from constituents on his page, ProPublica reported in 2017.
“Having my voice and opinions shut down by the person who represents me — especially when my voice and opinion wasn’t vulgar and obscene — is frustrating, it’s disheartening, and I think it points to perhaps a larger problem with our representatives and maybe their priorities,” blocked constituent Ashleigh Morley said.
King argues that despite the title “Congressman,” the Facebook page isn’t a taxpayer-funded page for his official office, rather, he claims, it’s bought and paid for by his campaign.
“I’m on 100 percent solid legal ground. That Facebook account is political. It is paid for by my campaign committee. It’s the same as having people write negative comments on a campaign brochure and sending that out,” King said. “They can get their own Facebook account and attack me, rather than me paying for it.”
But the ACLU explained that as an elected official he has an obligation to keep his social media open to all constituents, regardless of their messages to him.
Facebook allows page administrators to block members, hide comments or set a list of words that cannot be used on the page. While the latter is often used to keep language friendly to all ages, conservatives could use it as a means to silence specific issues.
If King doesn’t unblock the constituents, the next step for the ACLU is going to court.