A lawsuit challenging a local government official’s blocking of a critic on Facebook
On January 7, 2019, in a case litigated by the Knight Institute, the Fourth Circuit became the first federal appellate court in the country to address whether public officials’ social media accounts can be “public forums” under the First Amendment.
The lawsuit was brought by Brian Davison, a Virginia resident who was temporarily blocked from the official Facebook page of Phyllis J. Randall, the chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. The lawsuit maintained that Randall's Facebook page is a “public forum” under the First Amendment, and that Randall may not exclude people from it based on their views.
Status: Decided on January 7, 2019. A panel of the Fourth Circuit unanimously held that the “interactive component” of a local government official’s Facebook page constituted a public forum and that the official engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination by banning Davison from that forum.
Case Information: Davison v. Randall, No. 17-2002 (4th Cir.).