ACLU sues Gov. Bevin for blocking and banning people on social media

07/31/2017 12:03 PM

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit on Monday against Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin for permanently banning or blocking individuals from his official Facebook page and Twitter accounts.

The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of Mary Hargis, a retired Eastern Kentucky activist, and Drew Morgan, who lives in Louisville. Both Kentuckians say they were permanently blocked from engaging in political speech on the governor’s official social media accounts, after posting comments that were not obscene, abusive, or defamatory, according to a news release.

“I’ve been very active in my community and in Frankfort for the past two years,” Hargis said. “I’ve been frustrated with Governor Bevin’s stances on a number of social justice issues. I was shocked when I discovered that I was blocked from further commenting on the Governor’s posts. 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.”

Morgan said he was surprised he was blocked by the governor online.

“I often use the official social media pages of my local, state, and federal representatives as a way to share feedback,” Morgan said. “I was surprised when Governor Bevin blocked my access to his Twitter page, particularly because of how many times he has asked Kentuckians to follow his social media pages to hear about his ideas and policies directly from him.”

The lawsuit alleges that Bevin’s banning of individuals constitutes an unlawful prior restraint on speech.

William Sharp, ACLU of Kentucky Legal Director, said the First Amendment does not allow the government to exclude speakers from a public forum because it disagrees with their viewpoint.

“And 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.

A copy of the lawsuit is available here.

The ACLU filed the suit after they say Bevin’s office ignored a letter the Kentucky ACLU sent about the “more than 600 people whose First Amendment rights were violated when they posted comments and were blocked from all future posting on the governor’s Facebook page and Twitter accounts.”

The letter asked Bevin to unblock individuals from his online social media accounts.


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