Congressman Paul Gosar acknowledged in recent court filings that he would no longer block people on social media because their point of view is different from his own. Gosar’s change in position follows the filing of a lawsuit by two of his constituents: Kingman resident J’aime Morgaine, a founder of Indivisible Kingman, and Prescott resident Paul Hamilton, a founder of Indivisible Prescott.
Gosar is no longer blocking anyone from his Facebook page, according to court filings, and he has established guidelines for the moderation of his Facebook page.
Because of these changes, Morgaine and Hamilton withdrew their lawsuit on Friday. The ACLU of Arizona and the law firm Perkins Coie LLP represented Morgaine and Hamilton in the suit, which alleged Gosar’s social media blocking of critics violated the Free Speech and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
“Rep. Gosar was using his Facebook page to share his views and inviting supportive comments while at the same time excluding dissenting voices from the discussion,” said Morgaine, who began protesting Gosar’s social media blocking in 2017. “I’m glad Congressman Gosar stopped discriminating against people like me who disagree with him, but I’m frustrated that it took more than a year, and a lawsuit, for him to recognize that his behavior was unconstitutional.”
“When a government official creates an online forum for public expression, the First Amendment prohibits the official from banning people or censoring comments that express opposing or critical viewpoints,” said ACLU of Arizona Staff Attorney Darrell Hill. “We want to hear from anyone in Arizona who believes that they have been improperly blocked on social media by any government official.”
At least two federal courts, in New York and Virginia, have ruled that government officials may not censor a speaker on social media because of the speaker’s point of view. In June, President Trump unblocked critics from his Twitter account after a court ruled that doing so violates the First Amendment.
The ACLU of Arizona will continue to monitor Rep. Gosar’s social media accounts to ensure they are being moderated within constitutional bounds. The organization welcomes any Arizonan who has been censored by a government official on social media to file a complaint online: www.acluaz.org/askforhelp.