Court Finds First Amendment Violation With Official’s Use of Facebook Page

In a case of first impression to any Federal appellate court, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously held that a Loudoun County elected official’s Facebook page was a “public forum” and that the elected official, who was the Defendant in the case, violated the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States by temporarily blocking a member of the public from posting on her official Facebook page.

In 2016, the Defendant created an “official” Facebook page that she used to communicate about Loudoun County government business with her constituents and Loudoun County citizens. The Plaintiff, a member of the public, offered criticism of the Defendant and Loudoun County’s Board of Supervisors on the Defendant’s official Facebook page. In response to the Plaintiff’s criticism, the Defendant temporarily blocked the Plaintiff from posting on her official Facebook page. The Plaintiff subsequently sued the Defendant, alleging that she violated the Plaintiff’s rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals found for the Plaintiff, holding that the Defendant’s Facebook page “constituted a public forum and [the Defendant] engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination when she banned [the Defendant] from that forum.”

See the link to the full text of the 4th Circuit’s opinion here:  http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/opinions/172002.P.pdf