A month after the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) threatened to sue U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) if he didn’t unblock at least 70 people on his Facebook page, the congressman launched a new page.
Long Island’s most tenured congressman argued that since his Facebook page was his campaign account and not his official government account, he was allowed to block critics. But the NYCLU countered that since he used that account to make announcements, weigh in on issues, and interact with constituents, it should be considered a public forum. On April 24, the group sent King a letter warning that if he doesn’t unblock users on that account, they’d take him to court — but on Tuesday, King launched a new government account instead.
“I am pleased to announce the launch of my government Facebook page – Congressman Pete King,” he posted on his original page while linking to the new one. “There, you can stay informed of my government activities and let me know your views on the important issues that face our nation and our community.”
The NYCLU declared victory and said King’s new official Facebook page will not block users based on their opinions and will use his original page only for campaign purposes.
“While we are pleased with Rep. King’s decision to create an official Facebook page that does not block anyone, we know that this is not an issue specific to the Congressman,” Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “Many elected officials have followed in the footsteps of President Trump in blocking dissenting views expressed on Twitter and other social media platforms.”
Fellow Republican President Donald Trump has also been sued for his practice of blocking Twitter users that are critical of him. A federal judge ruled that Trump cannot block Twitter critics since the president’s account is used in an official government capacity. An appeals court is expected to rule on that issue soon.
“The Supreme Court recognizes that social media platforms are perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to private citizens in making their voice heard,” Lieberman added. “Regardless of their views, constituents have a right to engage in public discourse, and all official government social media pages serve as public forums.”
She noted that blocking constituents on social media infringes upon their First Amendment protections.
“All government officials must allow people to share their views uncensored on government social media platforms without being silenced,” she said.
“The main points of the agreement are entirely satisfactory to me,” King said. “I maintain my Campaign Facebook Page and have started a government Facebook Page to accompany the government Twitter account which I have had for a number of years. This is a win-win.”