A federal judge last week ruled President Donald Trump’s predilection for blocking Twitter users from viewing his tweets is unconstitutional. Federal Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald sided with plaintiffs who argued that Trump, because he is an elected official, is violating the First Amendment by blocking some users from participating in what amounts to a “digital town hall.” The ruling also found the issue of blocking Twitter users does not end with the president, but covers all elected officials.
An Oakland resident believes Councilmember Desley Brooks is no different from Trump when it comes to stifling the ability of detractors from viewing her Twitter feed. A complaint was filed last Friday with the Oakland Public Ethics Commission alleging Brooks has a long history of blocking users.
“Public officials, especially elected representatives, shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate against or silence viewpoints from the public they don’t like or agree with in a public forum,” said Joshua Daniels, an Oakland resident.
“When a politician or public official blocks users on Twitter it keeps those blocked from being able to see that official’s public political speech and policy discussion on their account, from being able to engage in those discussions, and also limits the ability of blocked users to hold the blocking official accountable for their public political speech.”
According to the complaint, Daniels also alleges that Brooks has twice lied about blocking Twitter users. Brooks reported no records pertinent to a pair of Public Records Act requests for the individual Twitter accounts she has blocked. Brooks did not respond to a request for comment on the ethics filing.
“I, many other Oakland residents, and even some journalists, are blocked from following D6 Councilmember Desley Brooks on her Twitter account (@desleyb),” Daniels wrote in the compliant. (Full disclosure: I was blocked by Brooks sometime in 2014 and wrote about it here.)
Brooks’ use of Twitter, however, is limited. She has just 1,329 followers and tweets infrequently. When she does, the information is typically about announcements of public events. In addition, the number of accounts Brooks has blocked is unknown. Only individual account holders are able view such information.