Ocasio-Cortez Sued For Blocking People On Twitter
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is being sued for blocking people on Twitter. She's likely to lose the lawsuits.
Just days after a Federal Appeals Court upheld a lower court ruling that President Trump had violated the First Amendment by blocking users from accessing his Twitter account, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has found herself the Defendant in two lawsuits for ostensibly the same activity:
President Trump and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are diametrical opposites in nearly every way, except perhaps for their shared home state of New York and their social media dominance.
But now there may be another thing that binds the two: a federal appeals panel ruling on Tuesday found that Mr. Trump, a Republican, has been violating the Constitution by blocking people from following him on Twitter because they criticized or mocked him.
That ruling is now the basis of two lawsuits filed against Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, accusing her of blocking people because of their opposing political stances.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has 4.7 million followers on her personal Twitter account, @AOC, which she uses to frequently discuss policy and advocate her proposals, such as the Green New Deal and her belief that the camps holding children and other undocumented immigrants seeking asylum at the Texas border are “concentration camps.”
Dov Hikind, a former assemblyman from Brooklyn who is the founder of Americans Against Anti-Semitism, said he regularly replied to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s tweets, but was blocked on July 8.
Joseph Saladino, a YouTube personality known as “Joey Salads” who is running for a congressional seat representing Brooklyn and Staten Island, said he was blocked on May 9.
But because Ms. Ocasio-Cortez uses the account to discuss policies that affect them, she cannot use it to “suppress contrary views” and violate his First Amendment rights to free speech, Mr. Hikind said in his lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn.
“It’s very clear based on the court’s ruling that A.O.C. is violating my constitutional rights to free speech by excluding me,” Mr. Hikind said in an interview. “She doesn’t want me to be a part of the discussion and conversation.”
Mr. Hikind said he was blocked after criticizing Ms. Ocasio-Cortez for her concentration camp comments.
“She has a right to have that position. That’s not the issue. The question is why is she afraid of other people’s positions?” he added.
Mr. Saladino, whose pranks have been criticized as racist, filed a separate lawsuit in Federal District Court in Manhattan. He said that as a practical matter, he does not care if Ms. Ocasio-Cortez blocked him because he can still access her Twitter comments from an anonymous account.
He said his complaint is a test of whether there is a double standard in the courts for liberals and conservatives.
“At the end of the day, it’s like a social experiment to see if the standards will apply equally,” Mr. Saladino said. “Will the courts rule the same way against A.O.C. as Trump?”
Corbin Trent, a spokesman for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, declined to comment about pending litigation.
Based on the ruling of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the Trump case, it seems fairly clear that the Plaintiffs in these cases ought to prevail in their respective lawsuits. While @AOC is not Ocasio-Cortez’s “official” Congressional Twitter account, which is @RepAOC, she frequently, indeed almost exclusively, uses the first account to communicate political messages to her supporters and constituents. This makes is essentially identical to Trump’s @RealDonaldTrump account, which he utilizes far more than he does his “official” @POTUS account. Because of that, the Court’s conclusions regarding the “personal” Trump account, that it essentially amounts to a forum that he uses to conduct business related to his office, apply just as equally to AOC’s “personal account.
Since these cases were filed in the same Circuit as the Trump case, the District Court Judge that presides over them will be bound by the precedent established by the panel in the Trump case unless and until that case is reversed by the en banc 2nd Circuit or the Supreme Court. Given that, the best strategy for Ocasio-Cortez would be to unblock everyone she has blocked and agree that she won’t block anyone in the future, with the possible exception of people who make threats against her. Of course, those people should immediately be reported to law enforcement since it’s illegal to threaten the life of a Member of Congress, or anyone else for that matter. It would save a lot of time and a not-insignificant amount of legal fees.