West Virginia AG, Other Officials Accused Of Illegally Blocking Critics On Social Media

Feb 6, 2020

Updated: Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020 at 8:00 p.m.

The West Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union accused the state attorney general of blocking critics on social media in violation of the First Amendment.

The state chapter said in a news release it sent notices Wednesday to Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and eight others along with the Parkersburg Police Department.

Last July a federal appeals court ruled that the daily writings of President Donald Trump on Twitter were official in nature and that he violated the First Amendment whenever he blocked a critic to silence a viewpoint. And in January 2019 another federal appeals court found a Virginia politician violated the First Amendment rights of one of her constituents by blocking him from a Facebook page.

“It’s unacceptable for public officials to deny their constituents access because of a differing viewpoint,” ACLU West Virginia legal director Loree Stark said in the statement. “And it is just as unconstitutional to bar a constituent from engaging on an official social media account because they disagree with you as it is to ban someone from a town hall event.”

In a statement, Morrisey spokesman Curtis Johnson said the practice of the attorney general’s office “is not to block anyone seeking to post information on a government or government-controlled social media platform.”

Parkersburg’s police chief didn’t immediately return a message requesting comment Thursday.

Others in the ACLU notice were five state lawmakers, two county commissioners and a county school board member.