The ACLU says lawmakers social media accounts are virtual town squares.
The ACLU says lawmakers' social media accounts are "virtual town squares." Washington state legislature

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington says some state lawmakers are "unconstitutionally censoring and/or blocking constituents" from their social media pages.

In a letter to state legislators and the governor, ACLU of Washington Legislative Director Elisabeth Smith writes that courts have recognized social media accounts as a place where constituents can debate policy and provide feedback to lawmakers. And that means censoring speech on sites like Twitter and Facebook can violate the First Amendment, she writes. The letter does not cite any specific lawmakers.

The ACLU of Washington has received complaints from people who say lawmakers have blocked them or deleted their posts, according to the letter. Public officials can use "some reasonable, content-based regulation of the speech," like deleting off-topic or vulgar posts, Smith writes. But the complaints have included posts were on topic but critical of the lawmaker.

"This leads us to the conclusion that the lawmaker at hand and/or the administrators of his or her social media platform deleted particular posts and/or blocked particular individuals from participation based solely on the viewpoints expressed in those posts—a form of government censorship that violates the First Amendment," Smith writes.

The letter urges all lawmakers to "carefully review their use of social media platforms."

That should include both "government" and "private" accounts, Smith writes. "If a given social media account is used by a public official as a space to engage with the public and/or their constituents, and the public does, in fact, use that account for such purposes, it is immaterial whether the account is designated as 'official' or not."