It came to some as a surprise. Local reporters, organizations, and activists were shocked to learn that House Representative Shawnna Bolick, from legislative district 20, had blocked them from her Twitter account. While some had been critical of her role as a legislator, others had never interacted with her online. Quickly, the hashtag #BlockedByBolick spread like wildfire and when the ACLU of Arizona discovered they had also been blocked, we joined in on the fun.

However, elected officials blocking constituents is nothing new – or something that should be tolerated. In 2018, we filed a lawsuit challenging U.S. Congressman Paul Gosar’s blocking and censoring of constituents critical of his political views and job performance from commenting, and in some cases viewing his official public social media accounts. Gosar later changed his position and acknowledged in court filings that he would no longer block people on social media because their point of view is different from his own.

The ACLU believes that official social media pages of elected representatives and government agencies are public forums. And we also believe that blocking individuals from accessing these pages may be an unconstitutional restriction on their right to free speech under the First Amendment.

Representative Bolick is not the only local official who has blocked constituents. That’s why we created our
Social Media Block Toolkit – a resource for individuals who have been blocked from posting or commenting on an official social media page operated by an elected representative or government organization. We hope that this tool will help you get “unblocked” by your elected official.

Now more than ever, it’s important that constituents have access to their representatives or local government. COVID-19 has limited the ways many can get in touch with their elected officials. And in the middle of Arizona’s legislative session, it’s crucial for us to be able to express our voice and opinions without fear of retaliation. #BlockedByBolick might’ve inspired some jokes but let’s be clear: it is not allowable for any representative to create a social media page and then restrict people with critical viewpoints from posting or viewing content.

After #BlockedByBolick took over, it seems that Representative Bolick has unblocked several profiles. While the ACLU of Arizona now has access to her Twitter page, many remain unable to view her profile. We encourage you to
check our toolkit and take steps to rectify that.