Councilperson Allison Love of South Carolina’s York County Council blocked a constituent from posting on her Facebook page, in violation of the First Amendment. Several federal appeals courts, including the Fourth Circuit, which hears South Carolina cases, have declared that the Facebook pages of elected officials can be considered public forums and hence efforts to block particular individuals from those pages violate the First Amendment.

On June 5, without warning or explanation, John Gossett was blocked from posting to Love’s page after he posted a flier with information about a future local community meeting. The action not only removed the flier but every comment Gossett had ever posted on the page. This ban denied Mr. Gossett access to an important channel of community information and simultaneously removed the record of his contributions and involvement as an active citizen. The United States Courts of Appeals for the Second, Fourth and Eighth Circuits have all ruled that social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter can be public forums that fall under the purview of the First Amendment. Under those precedents, Love’s Facebook page is a public forum because it is used as a channel for communicating with the public about issues of concern to them and to city government, and because it has been opened to discourse by the public. The First Amendment protects a citizen’s right of free expression in public forums, whether the public forum is a town hall, a park, or a Facebook page.

No one can be banned from public forums based on the opinions they express. NCAC urges Councilperson Love to immediately remove the ban of John Gossett and any other community members that may have been denied access to the Facebook page because of the views they express.

NCAC’s letter to the councilperson is below. Click here for a full screen view: