A verdict was just handed down by US District Judge James Cacheris that could have a profound impact on an ongoing lawsuit filed against President Donald Trump in relation to his blocking of followers on Twitter. The ruling handed down by Cacheris said that Phyllis Randall violated the freedom of speech of one of her constituents that she blocked from communicating with her on Facebook. Randall is the chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors for Loudoun County. Another constituent from the county, Brian Davison, claimed Randall blocked him after he made accusatory comments on a post she created on her Facebook page requesting feedback from citizens. Davison’s comments were pointed toward corruption on the Loudoun County School Board.
In the ruling handed down by Judge Cacheris, he explained that Randall’s Facebook page was acting as a forum for her public platform as a public official. By blocking certain constituents, she suppressed commentary of elected officials strictly because it was negative. This is a violation of the First Amendment, according to the judge, because it constitutes a discrimination against a certain viewpoint. The ACLU calls such discrimination unconstitutional because it instills a fear that prosecution and censorship will befall those who offer dissenting points of view.
Judge Cacheris heard arguments against the claim from Randall’s lawyer, who insisted that Randall’s Facebook page was not a representative of the government. This claim was made based on the fact that Randall does not use any resources from her government position to maintain the page. However, the judge ruled that since Randall solicited public comments about government activity from the page during her business hours, it constituted a public governmental platform. The judge rightfully deduced the arguments coming from Randall and her lawyer were designed to promote the free use of her Facebook platform to curate only positive commentary.
Randall also claimed that she only blocked Brian Davison and deleted his comments because of information within those comments that included details about elected official’s families. According to Randall, she reversed the block on Davison after only 12 hours. Judge Cacheris was not swayed by this argument either, which was clearly nothing more than an attempt on the part of Randall to explain away her censorship.
Even with the positive ruling, Randall will not be subject to any penalties for her actions. In fact, the overall consequences of the decision for Randall will be minor. However, the decision by the judge is where the importance of this case is hidden. The case is strangely relevant to a major situation regarding Donald Trump and his use of Twitter to communicate with his constituents. According to the ruling, there clearly should be some limitations on what can and can not be done with the social media accounts of elected officials. It’s very possible this ruling could be the precedent that forces Trump to change his Twitter behavior in the future.
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