ACLU of Maine Sues LePage Over Facebook Censorship
Portland – The ACLU of Maine today filed a lawsuit against Gov. Paul LePage over his continued unlawful practice of censoring people on the official “Paul LePage, Maine’s Governor” Facebook page. The ACLU filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, on behalf of two Maine women who have had their comments deleted and been blocked from further commenting on the page.
According to the ACLU, the governor uses the page in his official capacity to perform government business, and blocking people from the page who disagree with the governor constitutes viewpoint discrimination and government censorship in violation of the U.S. and Maine constitutions.
“Social media has quickly become a crucial tool for constituents to express their opinions to public officials,” said Meagan Sway, attorney with the ACLU of Maine. “Free speech must be protected from government censorship on Facebook just as is it in any other public forum.”
The complaint argues that the “Paul LePage, Maine’s Governor” Facebook page is an official page because, among other things, the governor and his staff use the page to share information such as official announcements and press releases; that the page is described as “Paul LePage’s official page” in the “About” section; that the page has been “verified” by Facebook as the governor’s page (which requires his approval); that as of July 24 the Facebook page was linked to from the governor’s official Maine.gov website (the link has since been removed); and that the governor has posted to the Facebook page several times in his official capacity.
The complaint further argues that, as an official Maine government page, “Paul LePage, Maine’s Governor” is bound by a state policy on the use of social media for state business, which does not discuss deleting comments or blocking users simply because they are critical of a government official.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Karin Leuthy of Camden and Kelli Whitlock Burton of Waldoboro, both of whom have had their comments deleted and their accounts blocked from further posting on the official “Paul LePage, Maine’s Governor” Facebook page, despite none of their comments violating the state’s official social media commenting policy.
“The governor should stop censoring people in public forums just because he disagrees with them,” said Leuthy. “Maine will be a stronger state if those in power listen to people from across the political spectrum.”
The ACLU of Maine sent a letter to Gov. LePage on July 24 demanding he stop the practice of censoring users on his official page based on their viewpoint and restore the blocked users. The letter requested a written response within two weeks. The governor’s office did not respond to the ACLU, but did refer the public to a response posted on the Facebook page in question.
The ACLU’s complaint can be found here: https://www.aclumaine.org/sites/default/files/leuthy_complaint_final.pdf
The original demand letter can be found here: https://www.aclumaine.org/sites/default/files/facebook_censorship_07242017.pdf
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The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.