ACLU threatens to sue NY congressman for blocking constituents on Facebook

ACLU threatens to sue NY congressman for blocking constituents on Facebook
© Stefani Reynolds

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is threatening to sue a New York congressman for allegedly blocking his own constituents on Facebook.

The ACLU’s New York chapter sent a letter to Rep. Pete KingPeter (Pete) Thomas KingGOP lawmakers offer new election security measure GOP lawmakers blast Trump's Syria decision as 'grave mistake,' 'disaster in the making' Here are the Democrats who aren't co-sponsoring an assault weapons ban MORE (R-N.Y.) on Wednesday arguing that blocking users from viewing his page or commenting on his posts deprives them of constitutional rights.

“Silencing these voices is an affront to the First Amendment and to the core values of our democracy,” the group wrote. “If you do not unban these constituents promptly, we intend to file a federal lawsuit to vindicate their rights.”

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The letter includes a list of King’s constituents who say they were banned from the "Congressman Peter King" Facebook page after posting critical comments. According to the ACLU, about 70 users have been blocked from the page.

In a phone interview with The Hill, King said he is free to moderate the Facebook page because it is an extension of his campaign and not a part of his official capacity as a government official. For official communications, King says he uses a Twitter account.

"Why should I have to give the opposition the opportunity to attack me on something I paid for," King said. "If they want to contact me the government Twitter account is there."

The ACLU said in its letter that King's discussion of official votes on the Facebook page undermines his argument.

“Like a traditional town hall hosted by any elected official, the Congressman Peter King Facebook page is an important avenue for communication between you and the constituents you represent,” the group wrote Wednesday.  

“Like ejecting them from that town hall, banning users from your Facebook page stifles their ability to weigh in on your work on their behalf. It limits their participation in our democratic process, striking at the heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee.”

--Updated at 4:11 p.m.