Editor’s note: This was written before Thursday’s news that Congressman Paul Gosar was unblocking J’aime Morgaine from his Facebook page, see story, 1A.
The recent article about the filing of a lawsuit against Rep. Gosar over his blocking of constituents on social media was published in four different northern Arizona newspapers, including The Daily Courier. And judging by the comments (and the hate mail I have received), it seems clear that most people didn’t make it past the reporter’s opening statement about the possible profanity post before I was judged and sentenced, case dismissed.
This lawsuit isn’t about trying to make a statement about profanity as a First Amendment-protected right in social media. And I didn’t just wake up one day filled with outrage and file this lawsuit. I researched for months trying to answer the question for myself if I even had a right to be upset that I had been blocked.
In 2016, the Congressional Research Service compiled a report titled “Social Media in Congress: The Impact of Electronic Media on Member Communications.” According to the report, “all 100 Senators and almost all Representatives have adopted Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools as a way to supplement their overall office communication strategies and disseminate information.”
Clearly, social media is fast becoming one of the most important member-constituent modes of communication. It is why Rep. Gosar created the official “Rep. Paul Gosar” Facebook page in the first place ... to facilitate his official representational duties, not to represent his personal life.
The Members’ Congressional Handbook authorizes members to establish third-party social media accounts. However, the “Member-controlled content on Social Media Accounts is subject to the same requirements as content on member websites.” And, this content “must be in compliance with Federal law and House Rules and Regulations applicable to official communications and germane to the conduct of the member’s official and representational duties.”
So, I filed my lawsuit because my congressman unconstitutionally blocked me on his official, open public Facebook forum for member-constituent communication, and never responded to any one of my multiple demands to know why I had been blocked. He also provided no “due process” to get unblocked. Ever.
The only response was a public statement that he didn’t care if we were offended that he’d blocked us on Facebook ... then called us “hateful idiots.”
I filed because the Facebook block permanently bans my fair and equal participation in the only town halls Rep. Gosar runs, and there is no replacement for this participation in the Fourth Congressional District democratic process.
I filed because if the single uncharacteristic post in question actually was posted to the page, he permanently blocked me, rather than simply hiding or deleting the comment as his policy stated he would do. So, no. This lawsuit has nothing to do with profanity.
But, the final push to file the lawsuit came in July, when a federal court in Virginia ruled in favor of the Plaintiff Brian Davison, who sued over being blocked by a Loudoun County Board Supervisor. That ruling set the legal precedent that an elected official’s social media (when used in an official capacity) is, in fact, a First Amendment protected free speech public forum.
The reason why this lawsuit is so important is because elected officials all across this country (not just Rep. Gosar) are blocking voices of dissent on the social media accounts that are being used as an important part of their official capacity ... with zero accountability.
But to those who continue to view this as just some crazy-cat-lady-snowflake-loser crying over a lost election and whining about being blocked on Facebook for being a foul-mouthed violence inciter who should be ashamed of herself, by all means keep sending me your hate mail, because it only motivates me to keep fighting this very important battle for free speech for all.
J’aime Morgaine is a Kingman resident, and former Prescott resident.