- Twitter users have complained that Sen. John Cornyn or his staff have blocked them from his official account when they criticize his policies.
The Knight First Amendment Institute sent a letter Wednesday to Cornyn, R-Texas, asking him to unblock a constituent who posted a critical comment on the senator's official Twitter account. Citing court rulings, Knight pointed out that public officials violate constitutional free-speech guarantees when they ban critics on social media.
"We're hoping the letter will make litigation unnecessary," Knight Senior Staff Attorney Katie Fallow told the Current. She wouldn't say how long she's prepared to wait for a response from Cornyn.
A spokesperson for the senator's office was unavailable for comment at press time.
The constituent — Heath Mayo, a former intern in Cornyn's office — said he was blocked after making a response to a controversial mid-March tweet in which the senator downplayed the coronavirus and posted a photo of a Corona beer.
“I just don’t understand the thought process that gets a senior-ranking senator to say: ‘You know what? I think I’ll post this picture of a Corona beer in an empty restaurant where I’m dining, in direct disregard of CDC & gov’t guidance—a gov’t for which I’m a spokesman,’” Mayo tweeted.
The senator blocked Mayo in late April, according to Fallow.
Woah. Just realized my own Senator for whom I once interned has now blocked me, presumably for this tweet. Sorry, John—the R next to your name doesn’t put you above criticism. pic.twitter.com/8v8qTeJSvQ— Heath Mayo (@HeathMayo) April 11, 2020
Fallow said multiple court cases, including her organization's win against Trump, show that public officials can't ban people from their social media accounts simply because they don't like the opinion they share.
"This is an official account where Senator Cornyn is tweeting about public policy," she said. "He's not posting pictures of his dog."
Other Twitter users have also said that they were blocked by Cornyn or members of his staff after criticizing his policies and public statements.
Earlier this month, Cornyn unblocked another Twitter critic a day after that user sued in federal court. The plaintiff, an Austin-based cybersecurity researcher, said he has no plans to drop the case because he hopes to prevent others from being blocked by the senator.
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