The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) sent a letter this week to Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino, warning him that censoring critics on his Facebook page violates the First Amendment.
NYCLU lawyers send the letter to the Republican town leader Monday. But Saladino denies that he blocked, deleted, or banned critics from commenting on his Facebook page, as NYCLU alleged in its letter.
NYCLU “has received reports of you repeatedly hiding comments and blocking users who express views critical of you,” Antony Gemmell, staff attorney at the NYCLU, wrote in the letter. “This suppression of speech in a public forum like you Facebook page violates the Constitutional right to free speech under the First Amendment and is an attack on the core values of our democracy. We ask that you stop this unconstitutional behavior immediately and unblock those whose voices you have silenced.”
The letter comes three months after the NYCLU similarly warned U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) to stop censoring critics on his Facebook page for the same reason. King responded by creating a new Facebook page that is his official congressional account instead of the his previous account that he said was his campaign page.
Fellow Republican President Donald Trump has 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 social media account is used in an official government capacity. An appeals court recently affirmed that decision and the administration has not yet signaled whether it will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In Oyster Bay, town representatives say Saladino has not done what the NYCLU accused it of doing.
“The ACLU has never had a conversation with the administration and sent their letter prior to learning any of the facts,” said Brian Nevin, the town’s spokesman. “We are committed to having an open and healthy dialogue about our successes in the Oyster Bay and no one is excluded from expressing their viewpoint. No one is banned from the page, no comments are deleted, and anyone suggesting otherwise deleted their own comment and is lying to to sensationalize a story two months before Election Day.”