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New ruling says politicians can’t block people on social media: Here’s how to get 'unblocked'

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By Cole Lauterbach | The Center Square

Elected officials cannot block people from their social media pages, according to a new ruling.

A New York appellate court upheld a lower court’s ruling last week that President Donald Trump was infringing on people’s First Amendment rights when he blocked them from seeing or interacting with his social media feeds.

“...the First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise‐open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees,” the court ruled.

The suit was filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

David Greene, civil liberties director with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the issue is similar to not allowing someone into a politician’s town hall meeting.  

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“Once you create what the court has called those interactive spaces, you cannot block people from participating in those spaces because you disagree with their viewpoint,” he said. 

The president’s legal counsel argued that @realdonaldtrump is a private Twitter feed that Trump had used before he assumed the presidency. It’s unclear whether the president will appeal the ruling. @potus is the official Twitter account, but Trump uses his original handle to share his more newsworthy remarks.

The ruling, like two others dealing with a similar issue, applies to all public officials, Greene said. 

If you’re a constituent who’s been blocked by a state or local politician, Greene said to first reach out and ask to be unblocked.

“Write them a letter or an email, some type of written request that you would like to be unblocked,” he said. 

That will usually resolve the issue, but Greene said the ruling doesn’t mean you can’t be blocked for harassing the official.

A number of state and local elected officials in Illinois block people online, according to a California paralegal who has submitted open records requests to officials to see who they’ve blocked.