Judge Sides With Rep. Boebert Over Twitter Block

A federal judge in Colorado says he won't order Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert to stop blocking a former state lawmaker on Twitter.

In an opinion issued Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Domenico in Denver said the block likely doesn't violate the First Amendment because, in his view, Boebert's use of Twitter doesn't amount to governmental action.

The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed earlier this year by Brianna Buentello, who says she was blocked by the first-term lawmaker after calling for her recall, and describing her actions on January 6 -- the day rioters stormed the Capitol -- as “seditious.”

Buentello alleged that the block amounted to unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.

Boebert countered in papers filed in March that her Twitter account is “personal” as opposed to governmental. The First Amendment only prohibits the government from discriminating based on viewpoint.

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Boebert argued that she uses the @laurenboebert account -- which was created the same day she declared her candidacy for office -- “to communicate her political views to potential voters and other political actors,” and for fundraising and other campaign purposes.

But Buentello countered that Boebert uses the account “as a tool of governance and an organ of official business.”

Domenico said in his ruling that Boebert's use of Twitter isn't “state action” -- meaning it isn't activity conducted by the government -- regardless of how she uses it.

“Blocking a Twitter user on an account created before she was elected to office is something Ms. Boebert could do before she was in office and could do after she leaves office,” he wrote. “It is not a state-created right or privilege and therefore cannot constitute state action.”

Different judges around the country have reached different conclusions about when government officials' Twitter use implicates the First Amendment.

Federal appellate judges on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals recently sided with a lawmaker in a separate dispute over social media blocks. In that case, the judges said the lawmaker's account was “personal,” and he therefore didn't violate the First Amendment by blocking a critic.

But federal judges on the 2nd Circuit ruled in 2019 that former President Trump violated the First Amendment by blocking critics on Twitter.

In that case, the judges rejected Trump's stance that the @realDonaldTrump account (which was taken down by Twitter earlier this year) was merely personal.

The judges wrote: "The First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise-open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees.”

Earlier this year, that ruling was vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court, on the grounds that the dispute between Trump and his critics is moot now that he's no longer in office.

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