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Chuck Clemons appealing in social media ‘blocking’ case

State Rep. Chuck Clemons is appealing a federal judge’s decision not to toss out a lawsuit against him because he blocked a constituent from his official social media. 

Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker of the Northern District of Florida had denied the Newberry Republican’s motion to dismiss in May.

Attwood

While Clemons appeals Walker’s ruling to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of AppealsMorgan Attwood‘s civil-rights lawsuit is on hold. 

To compare, another federal judge has held that President Donald Trump‘s blocking of critics on Twitter is unconstitutional.

In February, Attwood, of Gainesville, had tweeted at Clemons to ask why he voted against a motion to take up debate on a bill to ban assault weapons.

In doing so, Attwood subtweeted Emma González, who as a high school senior survived the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Broward County.

In response, Clemons blocked Attwood from Clemons’ official Twitter and Facebook accounts, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which is representing Attwood. 

“I was just trying to understand why my state representative didn’t support the assault weapon ban,” Attwood said in a statement. “I was shocked when he responded by blocking me from his accounts.”

Clemons

His suit alleges Clemons engaged in viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment by excluding him from official social media accounts, or “otherwise publicly accessible forums.”

Eric Lindstrom, another of Attwood’s attorneys, likened it to getting “kicked out of a public official’s town hall event … for asking a tough question.”

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In an email earlier this year, Clemons countered that Twitter and Facebook “are not government entities, nor are pages paid for by government.”

“Any legislator, or any citizen, has the right to decide who they will or won’t allow to interact with them online,” he said. “I would no more allow someone to be hostile or abusive online than I would if they were standing on my front porch. This is still America and I feel confident that reason, common sense, and freedom will prevail.”

In part, Walker had said Clemons wasn’t immune against being sued because he “controlled his Facebook and Twitter accounts. He was responsible for blocking Attwood. Therefore, he was responsible for the challenged action.” Clemons is represented by Florida House general counsel Adam Tanenbaum.

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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