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NEWS9 Special Assignment: Legally blocked?

  • November 5, 2019
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Can Bridgeport, a public school district, block people from a Twitter account representing the school district.

NEWS9 legal analyst Michael Nogay says no.

“Once it’s deemed to be a public forum, it is unconstitutional to block users that have a different viewpoint than yours,” he said.

There are some factors to determine whether it is a public forum. One big piece of the puzzle is to find out who is actually running the account. Superintendent Brent Ripley confirmed that he is in charge of the account. Ripley took over on Aug. 1 of this year.

There are both state and federal guidelines at play here.

Just this summer, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled President Trump could not block Twitter users for dissenting opinions.

“Even though the government doesn’t own the Twitter, if it temporarily controls part of an account and uses it for government purpose to disseminate viewpoints, as president Trump does, it is clearly a public forum,” Nogay said.

At the state level, it’s a matter of public record. The Ohio Public Records Act requires records be maintained by districts for public access. That would include a district-operated Twitter account.

“I would assume a judge would look disfavorably upon that,” Nogay said.

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