Rising Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a freshman lawmaker from New York, has been hit with a lawsuit accusing her of violating the First Amendment by blocking a critic on Twitter.
The suit, brought by former New York State Assembly Member Dov Hikind, came hours after a federal appeals court ruled that President Trump acted unconstitutionally by blocking Twitter users based on their viewpoints.
Hikind, a Brooklyn resident who currently runs the advocacy group Americans Against Anti-Semitism, says he was blocked by Ocasio-Cortez after he criticized her for saying the government was running “concentration camps” on the border.
Hikind alleges he was blocked “purely because of his speech in support of Jewish values and Israel.”
“Defendant’s blocking of the Plaintiff from the @AOC account violates the First Amendment because it imposes a viewpoint-based restriction on Mr. Hikind’s participation in a public forum,” he contends in papers filed with the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York.
Ocasio-Cortez, whose Twitter account, @AOC, has 4.7 million followers, set off a controversy last month by referring to detention centers as concentration camps. Some critics accused her of minimizing the Holocaust, but other people said her use of the term was historically accurate.
This week's ruling that Trump unconstitutionally blocked critics on Twitter appears to support Hikind's complaint -- but much could still turn on facts that haven't yet emerged, according to Internet legal expert Eric Goldman, a Santa Clara University professor who has written extensively about lawsuits against politicians over social media blocks.
In the lawsuit against Trump, the government admitted Twitter users were blocked solely for criticizing the president. That acknowledgment paved the way for federal judges to say the blocks violated people's free speech rights to express opinions about the government.
“It's possible that she had a better excuse than Trump did,” Goldman says. “But it's also possible that she engaged in unconstitutional censorship just like Trump did.”