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Tipsheet

LOL: State Lawmaker Finds Himself In Court Over 'Banning' Constituents From His Facebook Page

Washington State Rep. Jim Walsh (R) is being sued by two constituents who say he banned them from commenting on his official Facebook page, a direct violation of their First Amendment rights, the Seattle Times reported.

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“By banning access to this forum and deleting comments based on the viewpoint of the speaker, Representative Walsh has violated plaintiffs’ right to free expression, to petition the government for a redress of wrongs and grievances, and to hear the banned speech that would have otherwise been engaged in, distorting the expressive forum,” the lawsuit says.

The plaintiffs, Jeff Nichols and Gilbert Myers, want their commenting privileges, as well as any others who have been banned, to be reinstated. They also want to be compensated for “nominal damages and compensatory damages” and attorney's fees.

Walsh believes the lawsuit is politically motivated. 

“My posts are full of people who are critical of me, and as long as they keep it civil, that’s fine,” Walsh told the Times. “These two gentlemen did not keep it civil, and they know it.”

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The lawmaker said he has screencaptures of the now-deleted comments that show Nichols and Myers being uncivil.

“In the United States, the government is not allowed to put duct tape on citizens’ mouths just because they don’t like what’s being said,” Billie Morelli, the attorney for Myers, said.

Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union sent letters to lawmakers reminding them that blocking constituents from commenting on Facebook or Twitter feeds because they disagree with the viewpoints expressed could be considered First Amendment violations.

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