Written by T. Logan Dayne
The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects four fundamental rights, namely the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Although many of the “town squares” and places individuals receive their day-to-day news have become digital, the Constitution still protects these rights, extending its reach into the internet. Social media has become a form of “public forum” where citizens can interact with their representatives directly. Because of this, representatives cannot prohibit, remove, or block constituents based on their views any more than they would have a right to remove or silence them from public space because of their viewpoint. Despite this being the view of the Supreme Court, this has not stopped State Senator Candidate and Mayor of Encinitas Catherine Blakespear from doing just that.
A recent lawsuit has been filed that alleges that Democratic Candidate Blakespear has “improperly, knowingly, and unlawfully” prevented over 30 people from observing or commenting on information posted to her Facebook and Instagram pages. The civil complaint filed by San Diego County Attorney Carla DiMare cited that in an earlier settlement agreement, Blakespear was already “obliged to cease such prohibited conduct in the future,” and even had to make a formal public apology for having engaged in such action along with a personal payment to the plaintiffs to the amount of $5000. According to plaintiff Robert Nichols, “Blakespear’s been doing this for years. She shouldn’t be allowed to block and delete people from participating in the ‘Digital Town Square.’ Any elected representative who knowingly and willfully obstructs the public’s right to free speech does not deserve to hold public office.” Another plaintiff, Garvin Walsh, stated that Blakespear’s conduct was “dishonorable” and she was acting as if abiding by the Constitution did not apply to her. Blakespear positions herself as a victim, stating the “complainants threatened to sue me if they did not receive a public apology.”
DiMare currently represents five Encinitas residents who are suing on behalf of themselves and up to 30 other unnamed individuals who have been censored from participating in their representatives’ social media.
Photo Cred: Fox 5 San Diego