Public Forum

Another Judge Rules That Politicians Censoring Critics On Twitter Violates The First Amendment

People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in this illustration picture taken September 27, 2013. (Reuters/Kacper Pempel)

A federal judge ruled that three Republican members of the Wisconsin State Assembly violated the First Amendment rights of a liberal advocacy group by blocking the group’s account from their respective Twitter pages.

The group, One Wisconsin Now (OWN), filed a lawsuit in 2017 against Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Representative John Nygren, and then-Representative Jesse Kremer for blocking them on Twitter. Prior to being blocked, OWN would often monitor, comment on, reply to, or retweet messages from their Twitter accounts. By blocking them, the public officials prevented OWN from participating in  interactive conversations on their feeds. The judge ruled that because the defendants operated their accounts as public officials, the accounts are “designated public forums,” and that blocking OWN constituted “content-based discrimination.”

“All three defendants indicated, either directly or indirectly, that they do not approve of plaintiff’s liberal perspective,” the judge wrote.

The judge, however, did not yet order the politicians to unblock OWN, nor prohibit them from blocking other Twitter accounts, as OWN requested. He asked both parties to submit briefs on how he should grant relief, and designated a day in March for a one-day trial to further discuss the issue if necessary.

Associated Press Milwaukee Journal Sentinel One Wisconsin Twitter Decision
Read more: Can Elected Officials Block Critics On Their Social Media Pages?