CA senator sued for blocking opponents on Twitter, says they spread false info

Posted at 6:07 PM, Jul 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-31 21:07:26-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Several Californians are suing a state senator for blocking them on his Twitter page, a lawsuit which could impact how all members of the public are allowed to interact with their elected officials.

The lawsuit alleges that Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) violated the rights of several people when he blocked them. Pan is the senator who wrote the 2015 California law that requires children to get vaccinated before going to school.

Those who are suing Pan are advocates against vaccination. Pan and other lawmakers argue that people should not be allowed to post or comment what he considers to be false and misleading claims about the safety of vaccination on his page, which he says helps spread dangerous information.

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But others argue that the social media pages of elected officials are public forums, therefore open to everyone with speech protected by the first amendment. Specifically, they accuse Pan of viewpoint discrimination.

Earlier this year, a judge ruled in a case against President Donald Trump, who blocked several political opponents and was sued on similar grounds.

But such a precedent could go beyond protecting the ability to post a point of view. San Diego Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher put out several tweets on the issue Monday, suggesting that she should have the right to block people who post abusive, threatening and harassing messages. 

"Can I block people who say they hope my daughter gets raped by an immigrant? How about the ones who send me nudes? Can I block people that ask me to have sex? What if they do it 10x? Can I block people who post 25 things in a row, preventing my constituents from engaging?" Gonzalez Fletcher tweeted.

San Diego State University lecturer Dr. Wendy Patrick tells 10News there is no legal precedent for this social media-based cases.

"Technology has outpaced the law and litigation leads to legislation. The laws have to be changed," Patrick says.