The implications of one federal judge’s ruling last year are vast
Source: Chris Enloe
Did Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) violate the First Amendment with action she took against a reporter Friday?
On Friday, the Daily Wire’s Ryan Saavedra broke the news that Ocasio-Cortez had seemingly changed her accent while speaking to a predominantly black crowd at Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.
“This is what organizing looks like, this is what building power looks like, this is what changing the country looks like, it’s when we choose to show up and occupy the room and talk about the things that matter most,” Ocasio-Cortez said with a Southern drawl.
“I’m proud to be a bartender, ain’t nothin’ wrong with that,” she continued. “There’s nothin’ wrong with working retail, folding clothes for other people to buy. There is nothing wrong with preparing the food that your neighbors will eat. There is nothing wrong with driving the buses that take your family to work.”
The incident quickly became one of the biggest stories Friday afternoon, with detractors accusing the freshman lawmaker of racism, while supporters defended her use of “code-switching.”
Indeed, Ocasio-Cortez later claimed she was engaged in code-switching by using an accent familiar to her Bronx origin. On Twitter, she defended herself saying that Saavedra’s reporting churred the “conspiracy mills,” claiming she has previously used the accent in public.
Saavedra later checked the tapes, concluding that Ocasio-Cortez had, in fact, not used the same accent during the speeches she cited.
Ocasio-Cortez responded by blocking Saavedra on Twitter.
What is the big deal with Twitter blocking?
While Twitter blocking previously carried no legal implications, seven people sued President Donald Trump last year for blocking them from viewing his personal Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump.
In a shocking ruling, federal District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled last May that Trump’s actions were unconstitutional and violated the First Amendment. Buchwald ruled that Twitter is a “public forum” protected under the First Amendment.
She said exclusion from participation based on viewpoint — which happens when public officials block detractors — is a violation of the First Amendment.
At the time, it was believed that Buchwald’s ruling would have major implications for public officials in the future. More from the New York Times:
If the principle undergirding Wednesday’s ruling in Federal District Court stands, it is likely to have implications far beyond Mr. Trump’s feed and its 52 million followers, said Jameel Jaffer, the Knight First Amendment Institute’s executive director and the counsel for the plaintiffs. Public officials throughout the country, from local politicians to governors and members of Congress, regularly use social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to interact with the public about government business.
“This ruling should put them on notice, and if they censor critics from social media accounts used for official purposes, they run the risk that someone will sue them and win,” he said of public officials.
Trump later appealed Buchwald’s ruling, which is currently pending before the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals. But according to the New York Times, the three-judge panel “seemed skeptical of Mr. Trump’s contention that he was acting in a personal, not official, capacity when he blocked people” during oral arguments in March.
While it’s not yet clear how the appeals court will rule, the decision undoubtedly will have massive implications for government officials moving forward.
So that begs the question: If Trump is guilty of violating the First Amendment by blocking detractors on Twitter, is not Ocasio-Cortez also violating the law?