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Question of the day

Tuesday, Jul 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* AP

Two California residents are suing a state senator for blocking them from a social media account in a case similar to a successful lawsuit that barred President Trump from blocking critics on his Twitter account.

Suzanne Rummel and Marlene Burkitt sued Democratic Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento alleging that barring them from his Twitter account violates their First Amendment free speech rights.

Pan is a physician and both women’s accounts show they oppose his efforts to promote universal vaccinations of children.

Burkitt says in the lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Sacramento that she was blocked after using Pan’s Twitter site to discuss his efforts “to reduce medical freedom, parental decision-making rights, and other issues.”

I bet they were a real treat to deal with.

* The Question: Should elected officials be prohibited from blocking their constituents on social media? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.

bike trails


  1. - Southside Markie - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 12:28 pm:

    If it’s his private account, that’s his and should not be subject to First Amendment guarantees. Just like if he puts ine of his campaign sign in the front lawn of his house. You don’t have a First Amendment right to put his opponent’s sign on his lawn.

  2. - Board Watcher - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 12:29 pm:

    If every day Joe citizen can block his or her followers then elected officials should have the same freedom afforded to them. JMO

  3. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 12:31 pm:

    I answered no, because I think we should all have to follow the same rules of the social media companies. How are politicians going to be stopped from blocking, with special accounts or features? That seems unfair.

    If a politician blocks us, we could use it against that person on social media, by telling everyone about it, like one or more people do about Trump. It could be a mark of honor.

  4. - @misterjayem - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 12:35 pm:

    “Should elected officials be prohibited from blocking their constituents on social media?”

    I voted yes because all constituents should be permitted access to public statements issued by their elected officials.

    – MrJM

  5. - Anon - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 12:37 pm:

    This suit seems a bit different than Trump in that they disagreed with his professional opinion as a medical doctor and not necessarily with his political position as a State Senator. With that said, blocking someone from your Twitter account may impact your ability to interact with a politician, but there are still plenty of other ways to express your 1st Amendment rights and petition the government (including elected officials).

  6. - What's in a name? - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 12:38 pm:

    By “block” are we not talking about preventing responses/ The constituents could still read the tweet or whatever. I am old so I could be wrong.

  7. - JoanP - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 12:39 pm:

    Yes and no.

    “No”, if it’s their personal account. “Yes”, if it is an official account.

  8. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 12:39 pm:

    Voted “yes”


    Electeds are not normal citizens, as they, at times, use Twitter for other means to communicate.

    Blocking or not allowing constituents to get that info over others, that isn’t the way public service works.

    Voted “Yes”

  9. - lakeside - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 12:40 pm:

    I voted yes. I think electeds have a duty to receive feedback to their constituents - which in the case of the president is all American residents. For lower offices, I’d be open to them blocking users that aren’t constituents (figuring that out would take thinking through). Twitter is a nightmare, so there should be a way to help electeds (and the rest of us!) avoid harassment from nazis three states over, but getting telegrams, letters, calls, emails, and tweets from those you represent is part of the job.

  10. - Wonderful World - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 12:40 pm:

    If it is a government site, no blocking should be allowed - as long as civil. However, if the site is a personal one, then the elected person has the same rights as anyone else.

  11. - Don't Worry, Be Happy - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 12:40 pm:

    I answered no, but I would only apply that to official accounts for their elected position. Campaign or personal accounts are at the discretion of the politician.

    Would anyone say it was ok for an elected official to block certain phone numbers of people they didn’t like to prevent them from calling their office? I view their social media accounts the same way - it’s a channel to contact your elected official in a governmental capacity.

    One might argue they are preventing harassment, but there are existing ways to deal with that. We’ve all seen instances where an elected official is being harassed by someone, usually by phone, where they turn the records and message over to law enforcement.

  12. - Chicago Cynic - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 12:44 pm:

    Absolutely yes. It’s a clear 1st amendment violation. The elected official is an agent of the government that is preventing a constituent from monitoring that official’s views.

  13. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 12:53 pm:

    “I voted yes because all constituents should be permitted access to public statements issued by their elected officials.”

    What Mr. JM said.

  14. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 12:53 pm:

    I don’t think it should be prohibited so long as they do it for a legitimate reason (i.e. openly hostile and inappropriate commentary) and not simply because they dislike the views of someone who is commenting. The issue at hand in this instance isn’t a legitimate reason to block someone.

  15. - A guy - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 12:53 pm:

    NO. Since when is it anyone’s responsibility to provide a platform for someone else. There are plenty of options besides one’s personalized (not personal) social media for the disgruntled to disgrunt. And they do.

  16. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 1:00 pm:

    ===Since when is it anyone’s responsibility to provide a platform for someone else. There are plenty of options besides one’s personalized (not personal) social media for the disgruntled to disgrunt. And they do.===

    If you’re a public official, and on twitter, you give up privacy in today’s social media world.

    What would that public official be hiding… not making public those tweets?

    Twitter hurts far more than it ever helps. Rarely is it good to be on twitter as a public official.

    Public life is that… public… when the twitter is used while promoting yourself, your party, your government job…

  17. - Iggy - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 1:03 pm:

    voted yes. You are an elected official get thicker skin and deal with it. Andy Manar blocked me and I’ve never said anything offensive to him.

  18. - allknowingmasterofracoondom - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 1:04 pm:

    Voted Yes. Elected officials use social media to get their word out - it should work both ways.

    Hey, they asked for it (public office), they got it. Now do it right.

  19. - Boone's is Back - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 1:05 pm:

    As some have discussed I think it’s pretty clear cut if the account is private that they should be able to block people on it.

    If the account is used in furtherance of official duties or campaign related activity I think that they should be able to block the user if they’re harassing the official.

  20. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 1:16 pm:

    ==if the account is private ==

    No social media account is “private.”

  21. - Cheryl44 - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 1:20 pm:

    Openly hostile and inappropriate commentary should be reported to the authorities if the person on the receiving end feels it appropriate to do so.

  22. - FormerParatrooper - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 1:26 pm:

    If the public official is using the account as part of communicating policy, political statements or anything else to do with thier position, they should not be allowed to block anyone, except in cases of threats, abuse or spamming. We have a right to know how public officials are conducting business, even if we are not thier constituents as a consequence of living in a Republic.

    If the account is not posting anything of public record and is solely personal, then should be able to block people. Imho.

  23. - Chicago Dad - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 1:29 pm:

    I voted ‘yes’. If the account is tied to being the job of being a public servant, then the public deserves to see what is said there.

    But I think if you have an additional private account separate from your political work, say a Bigfoot-focused one, then that’s your business.

  24. - Harvest76 - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 1:37 pm:

    If comments by constituents violates the platform’s TOS, that’s one thing. Elected leaders should otherwise never be allowed to silence the voices of opposition.

  25. - JoanP - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 1:40 pm:

    =I think if you have an additional private account separate from your political work, say a Bigfoot-focused one,=

    That is shaping up to be one of the funniest political stories of the year.

  26. - Roadypig - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 1:46 pm:

    Voted no- once a public official opens up their social media accounts to everyone for their personal gain (posting press releases or policy /platform ideas) they have made their account public. We might see some of our President’s unfortunate tweets used against him or his allies in court down the road, so they have given up the right to privacy once they take public policy to their feeds IMO

  27. - zatoichi - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 1:46 pm:

    Private personal accounts maybe, but if the account can be shown to be used for political reasons as part of an elected position then, no.

  28. - Ducky LaMoore - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 1:50 pm:

    Voted yes. When you are rep or senator, you represent all of your constituents, even the ones you disagree with. They maybe cuckoo for cocoa puffs, doesn’t matter if they are not threatening.

  29. - Amalia - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 1:53 pm:

    Official account, no blocking. Personal account, blocking.

    that said, if someone is threatening or making others unable to comment, report to Twitter or Facebook and let them deal with it.

  30. - Notorious RBG - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 1:56 pm:

    Voted yes, for the same reasons MJM and others have said, but with the caveat that all citizens should be allowed to block individuals who threaten/harass them - however, those people should be reported to the platform operator and dealt with in that manner.

    In response to “what’s in a name?” — if someone blocks you on social media, you can no longer view any part of their profile/feed. On Facebook, that makes it look like the person does not exist - you can’t even tell if they have a profile. On Twitter, if you search for the person by their official handle, you will get a message that that person has blocked you from viewing their account.

  31. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 1:59 pm:

    No. Goes with the job like so many of us have to put up with things we don’t like if we want the job.

    But if anything illegal, then it needs to be reported. Was going to say threatening, but that won’t fly. Lot of us in the public sector are threatened

  32. - Gooner - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 2:00 pm:

    As others have said, they should not be allowed to block for official, but should be allowed to block for personal.

    It is like when you are sitting outside at a bar with an elected official. Sometimes you just want to talk about hockey, and it can be annoying when people come up and want to talk business.

    Electeds should have time off too.

  33. - Uncle Ernie - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 2:06 pm:

    A public figure making comments on social media such as Twitter should expect comments in support and to the contrary. Comments to the contrary should be welcomed, and blocking them is not allowing for freedom of speech. If you do not want such comments, simple close your Twitter account.

  34. - Father Ted - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 2:13 pm:

    I voted no, but I think politicians should set clear guidelines or terms/conditions for posting on the page. If people can’t adhere to basic expectations for civil discourse with elected officials and other residents of their district they deserve to be blocked.

  35. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 2:17 pm:

    If the elected official is receiving obnoxious tweets that violate the platform’s TOS, just report the user and sidestep the first amendment issue.

  36. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 2:21 pm:

    Yes, on their official accounts.

  37. - SAP - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 2:49 pm:

    Yes. We have a public figure in the form of our President who frequently uses social media to lie to the American people. Most citizens have no other way to hold him accountable to the truth other than to comment on his social media accounts.

  38. - California Guy - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 2:58 pm:

    Voted no. Social media is privately owned and the users (including politicians) are afforded First Amendment protections.

  39. - Anonni - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 3:20 pm:

    I follow electeds on social media - they often have an account for their office, which I do not think they should be able to block anyone from because it serves as a channel for information both ways.
    But they should be able to block on their personal. If they only have one, then no blocking.

  40. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 3:21 pm:

    I voted Yes, with the same provisions applying to newspaper editorial board members.

  41. - Name Withheld - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 3:31 pm:

    Voted Yes. If the public representative has a private personal account - then that’s okay. But the question is from the standpoint of being a public official. And on any account used for the communication of that official with the people of Illinois, then - yes, they should be prohibited from blocking constituents.

  42. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 3:50 pm:

    Yes, nobody should be entitled to use social media for political purposes with restrictions. If you don’t like negative feedback, don’t open an account.

  43. - Timmeh - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 4:18 pm:

    No. Relying totally on Twitter or Facebook to manage your social media isn’t going to be effective for today’s toxic environment. I’d rather Facebook/Twitter add a special block that allows only the page owner the ability to see the blocked user’s comments, but allows the blocked user to see everything that the politician posts and comment/PM if they want to.

  44. - Aspects - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 4:19 pm:

    Yes and hopefully someone sues Rodney Davis on this. Go to his Representative Facebook page and see “View all XX comments” and then when you click on it, see no comments because he blocks virtually all comments, making it seem that there is no dissent to his actions.

  45. - Yooper in Diaspora - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 7:30 pm:

    I voted no, my thoughts echoing FormerParaTrooper’s. But anyone blocked should be able to still read the official’s comments. I have been occasionally part of demoralizing exchanges with those who do not seek genuine conversation, and think those distract from discussion of issues.

  46. - Gooner - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 7:43 pm:

    I wonder here how many people here have been blocked by an elected official.

    I have, once. A Chicago alderman argued that if we require insurance for guns, that would somehow reduce gun violence. Based on 20 years in the industry, I politely pointed out why his idea would not work (i.e. unintentional discharge already covered, intentional acts never covered). He did not like the flaws in his idea being pointed out, so I was gone. When I realized I was blocked, I was amused.

  47. - Ross Brown - Tuesday, Jul 31, 18 @ 8:39 pm:

    No, it’s a ridiculous idea. I doubt the Trump lawsuit parameters will be upheld or even attempted to enforce because of how dumb an idea it is.

  48. - Perrid - Wednesday, Aug 1, 18 @ 7:07 am:

    I voted no, but I don’t think they should block people who simply disagree. If a constituent is just commenting filth or something, or is making threats, then I would say that’s questionable and might be OK to be blocked over.

  49. - Osborne Smith III - Wednesday, Aug 1, 18 @ 9:50 am:

    I voted “Yes,” with this stipulation -

    A politician should have the right to block constituents from their PRIVATE accounts, but, the instant that a “private” account tweets anything related to their currently held office or that office that they’re seeking to win, that “private” account is no longer private.

    An account like @SenatorJoeSchmoe shouldn’t be able to block a constituent.

  50. - Jerry - Wednesday, Aug 1, 18 @ 9:56 am:

    Voted No. Accountability the reason.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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