ACLU of Kentucky Sues Bevin For Blocking People On Social Media

Jul 31, 2017

Credit J. Tyler Frankin

The ACLU of Kentucky is suing Gov. Matt Bevin for blocking people on Facebook and Twitter, saying the governor is violating the free speech rights of his constituents.

The challenge was filed on behalf of two Kentucky residents who say they have been “permanently blocked from engaging in political speech” on the governor’s official social media pages.

“I was shocked when I discovered that I was blocked from further commenting on the Governor’s posts,” said Mary Hargis in a statement released by the ACLU. “I may not have voted for Governor Bevin, but I’m one of his constituents. He shouldn’t be permanently dismissing my views and concerns with a click.”

The lawsuit was filed in federal court on Monday and comes amid increased scrutiny of who public officials allow to view and engage with their social media pages.

Early in July, a group of Twitter users sued President Donald Trump for blocking them, arguing his social media pages amounted to a “public forum.”

Bevin has blocked hundreds of people from viewing or commenting on content on his official accounts, saying he only bars those who post “obscene and abusive language or images, or repeated off-topic comments and spam.”

A request for comment from the governor’s office wasn’t immediately returned Monday morning.

William Sharp, legal director for the ACLU of Kentucky, said the governor isn’t allowed to “exclude speakers from a public forum.”

“Even when the government seeks to enforce permissible limits in such a forum, permanently excluding individuals for violating those limits goes too far,” Sharp said.

The lawsuit seeks to make Bevin unblock more than 600 Twitter accounts and 300 Facebook accounts.