Eighth Circuit: Legislators Can "Block" on Twitter
January 29, 2021
By: Matthew A. McGuire
This week, the Eighth Circuit held that a constituent who was “blocked” on Twitter by the account of a Missouri state legislator could not maintain a claim against that public official for violation of his First Amendment rights. In Campbell v. Representative Cheri Reisch, the Eighth Circuit’s holding diverged from the conclusions drawn by two other federal courts of appeals in similar lawsuits, including a prior case out of the Second Circuit involving President Trump’s use of Twitter’s “block” button.
Plaintiff Mike Campbell found himself blocked on Twitter by his Missouri State Representative, Cheri Toalson Reisch, after retweeting a post by another individual criticizing Rep. Reisch. Upon being blocked by Rep. Reisch, Campbell’s Twitter account was no longer able to access Rep. Reisch’s tweets or communicate with Rep. Reisch’s account. The district court found that Rep. Reisch had blocked at least 123 other Twitter users. Campbell claimed that Rep. Reisch operated a virtual public forum via her Twitter account, acted under color of state law in blocking his account, and improperly discriminated against Campbell on the basis of the viewpoint he expressed with his retweet. The district court in Missouri agreed with Campbell. It found that the First Amendment prohibited Rep. Reisch from blocking Campbell and other constituents.
This was not the first time a federal court of appeals has tackled the First Amendment implications of a public official’s attempt to use Twitter’s block feature against their constituents....