Politicians’ social media pages can be 1st Amendment forums, judge says

We’ve been covering a recent First Amendment lawsuit targeting President Donald Trump—a novel legal argument in which Twitter users claim their constitutional rights were violated because the commander-in-chief blocked them from his personal @realDonaldTrump Twitter handle.

To be sure, it’s a digital-age-based constitutional theory about social media rights in a day and age when politicians, from the president on down, are using their private accounts to discuss public affairs.

Now there’s some legal precedent on the matter. It comes from a federal judge in Virginia who said that a local politician had violated the First Amendment rights of a constituent because the politician briefly banned the constituent from the politician’s personal Facebook account.

“The suppression of critical commentary regarding elected officials is the quintessential form of viewpoint discrimination against which the First Amendment guards,” US District Judge James Cacheris wrote Tuesday in a suit brought by a constituent against Phyllis Randall, the chairwoman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors in Virginia.

The judge didn’t issue any punishment against Randall, as the Facebook ban for constituent Brian Davison only lasted about 12 hours. That said, the judge noted Randall committed “a cardinal sin under the First Amendment” by barring the constituent who posted about county corruption. What’s more, the judge pointed out from the first sentence of the ruling that “this case raises important questions about the constitutional limitations applicable to social media accounts maintained by elected officials.”

Randall’s Facebook page, the judge ruled, “operates as a forum for speech under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.”

Trump card

This suit, at its most basic level, is nearly identical to the one lodged against Trump two weeks ago. Like the Virginia suit, the lawsuit against Trump names the chief executive’s private account, which Trump uses on an…

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