Knight Institute Responds to Lawsuits Filed against Rep. Ocasio-Cortez for Blocking Critics on Twitter

July 10, 2019

NEW YORK—Yesterday, two lawsuits were filed against Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez alleging that in blocking people from her Twitter account, @AOC, she is violating the First Amendment. The suits were filed on the same day that a unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that President Trump’s practice of blocking critics from his Twitter account violates the First Amendment. The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed the case on behalf of seven people who were blocked from the @realDonaldTrump account after they criticized the president and his policies.

The following response can be attributed to Katie Fallow, Senior Staff Attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

“Like many public officials, Representative Ocasio-Cortez uses her Twitter account to conduct the business of her office. The @AOC account is, therefore, a public forum, and accordingly, the First Amendment precludes her from blocking people from the account based solely on their viewpoints.

“In other contexts, Representative Ocasio-Cortez has been an eloquent and effective champion of civil liberties. If she's blocking people on the basis of viewpoint, we hope she'll reconsider that practice in light of the appellate court’s ruling in Knight Institute v. Trump. Online abuse and harassment are real concerns, but public officials should address them in ways that also comply with the First Amendment.”

Read more about yesterday’s ruling here: https://knightcolumbia.org/news/second-circuit-holds-president-trump-violated-first-amendment-blocking-critics-twitter

For more information, contact: Lorraine Kenny, lorraine.kenny@knightcolumbia.org, 646-745-8510.

About the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University

The Knight First Amendment Institute defends the freedoms of speech and the press in the digital age through strategic litigation, research, and public education. Its aim is to promote a system of free expression that is open and inclusive, that broadens and elevates public discourse, and that fosters creativity, accountability, and effective self-government.