Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Sued for Blocking Critics on Twitter

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President Trump and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are diametrical opposites in nearly every way, except perhaps for their shared home state of New York and their social media dominance.

But now there may be another thing that binds the two: a federal appeals panel ruling on Tuesday that Mr. Trump, a Republican, has been violating the Constitution by blocking people from following him on Twitter because they criticized or mocked him.

That ruling is now the basis of two lawsuits filed against Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, accusing her of blocking people because of their opposing political stances.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has 4.7 million followers on her personal Twitter account, @AOC, which she uses to frequently discuss policy and advocate her proposals, such as the Green New Deal and her belief that the camps holding children and other undocumented immigrants seeking asylum at the Texas border are “concentration camps.”

Dov Hikind, a former assemblyman from Brooklyn who is the founder of Americans Against Anti-Semitism, said he regularly replies to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s tweets, but was blocked on July 8.

Joseph Saladino, a YouTube personality known as “Joey Salads” who is running for a congressional seat representing Brooklyn and Staten Island, said he was blocked on May 9.

But because Ms. Ocasio-Cortez uses the account to discuss policies that affect them, she cannot use the account to “suppress contrary views” and violate his First Amendment rights to free speech, Mr. Hikind said in his lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn.

“It’s very clear based on the court’s ruling that A.O.C. is violating my constitutional rights to free speech by excluding me,” Mr. Hikind said in an interview. “She doesn’t want me to be a part of the discussion and conversation.”

Mr. Hikind said he was blocked after criticizing Ms. Ocasio-Cortez for her concentration camp comments.

“She has a right to have that position. That’s not the issue. The question is why is she afraid of other people’s positions?” he added.

Mr. Saladino, whose pranks have been criticized as racist, filed a separate lawsuit in Federal District Court in Manhattan. He said that as a practical matter, he does not care if Ms. Ocasio-Cortez blocked him because he can still access her Twitter comments from an anonymous account.

He said his complaint is a test of whether there is a double standard in the courts for liberals and conservatives.

“At the end of the day, it’s like a social experiment to see if the standards will apply equally,” Mr. Saladino said. “Will the courts rule the same way against A.O.C. as Trump?”

Corbin Trent, a spokeswoman for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, declined to comment about pending litigation.

Blocking on social media is done across political party lines. In 2017, for example, ProPublica sent letters asking all 50 governors and 22 federal agencies whether they had blocked people on social media. Five Republican governors, four Democrats and four agencies responded with information about people they had blocked. Many agencies and more than half the governors did not respond.

In New York, the issue has arisen with Representative Peter King, a 14-term Republican congressman who represents parts of Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. In April, the New York Civil Liberties Union threatened to sue Mr. King if he did not unblock the 70 or so constituents who were banned from his “Congressman Peter King” Facebook page for criticizing him.

In May, Mr. King added a new Facebook page that he said would be his official government account, and that he would not ban people from it.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s @AOC account is not her official congressional account. Her official congressional account, @RepAOC, has 172,000 followers and was last updated July 5, as of Wednesday afternoon.

Jacob Weinstein, Mr. Hikind’s lawyer, noted that the court ruling concerned the @realDonaldTrump personal account, followed by 61.8 million users, that Mr. Trump uses most often to comment on Twitter, not his official presidential Twitter account.

“It comes down to the First Amendment,” Mr. Weinstein said. “Twitter is a public forum. Imagine a politician is giving a town hall. Imagine if they only select people they like.”

Mr. Hikind said he was confident that he would prevail because of the ruling against Mr. Trump and the words of Judge Barrington D. Parker in the decision. “In resolving this appeal, we remind the litigants and the public that if the First Amendment means anything, it means that the best response to disfavored speech on matters of public concern is more speech, not less,” the judge wrote.

From a legal standpoint, “I know she can’t win,” said Mr. Hikind, who is seeking a ruling that would compel Ms. Ocasio-Cortez to unblock him and anyone else blocked for partisan reasons.

“Why is she afraid to read my comments about her policies? She only wants people who agree with her,” Mr. Hikind said. “I find it pathetic.”

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