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LadyMarissa's avatar

Should politicians be allowed to block their constituents on social media?

Asked by LadyMarissa (6876points) 1 week ago

I’m not sure when it started happening but many politicians have begun blocking people who disagree with their ideas. Now the courts are saying that it is illegal as it blocks freedom of speech. These politicians claim they are blocking harassment. Some states are telling their politicians that they have to unblock those people or they will have to cover the cost of any lawsuit that results from the blocking. So, should politicians be allowed to block their constituents who don’t agree with them or do they need to face the consequences of their decisions???

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13 Answers

SavoirFaire's avatar

(1) The right to free speech is not the right to a platform. The government cannot tell you what to say or what not to say, but they don’t have to organize a press conference for you either. Blocking a constituent on one social media platform or another does not prevent that constituent from speaking. It doesn’t even prevent them from using that particular social media platform.

(2) Politicians aren’t required to have any social media accounts in the first place, so I don’t see how their constituents could be entitled to contact them that way. But if they aren’t entitled to contact their politicians via social media, then they cannot have a right not to be blocked.

(3) That said, blocking works differently on different platforms. Whether or not blocking a constituent is excessive seems to rely at least in part on the mechanics of a given platform (including the existence or non-existence of a mute function that could be used instead of blocking. In cases where blocking effectively removes someone from an important public space and no alternative measures are available, I do think an argument could be made for not allowing politicians to block their constituents.

ragingloli's avatar

They are employees of the people.
Do you think you should have the right to block your boss while at work?

SavoirFaire's avatar

@ragingloli You shouldn’t be forced to engage with your boss on social media at all, not least because you should not be compelled to participate in social media. And given that blocking someone on social media is not the same as preventing them from contacting you (a boss can give you directions in person or via email, and a constituent retains the ability to call, send letters/emails, and vote), the analogy seems mistaken in the first place.

ragingloli's avatar

Not what I am saying.
Should you be allowed to ignore your boss, while he is standing right next to you?

SavoirFaire's avatar

@ragingloli Depends on the circumstances. Also, you seem to have just conceded my point that the analogy is mistaken.

LadyMarissa's avatar

Personally, I don’t think politicians should be allowed to have a social media account. Since they “choose” to open one, I feel they should have to accept the consequences of their decision. The account should not just be there just to make them look good. IF they can’t handle the tough questions, I should know before I actually vote for them. Often, when some crazy attacks them, it increases my faith in them when they handle the situation in a sane fashion. Blocking someone who challenges your decisions is a cowardly decision in my mind. Do I want a coward making decisions for me…don’t think so!!!

ragingloli's avatar

I have conceded nothing.
Social media is now one of the primary vectors used by “public servants” to engage with the public, and as such, it is antidemocratic to exclude portions of the citizenry from responding to or even viewing what they are publishing.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@LadyMarissa There are different reasons to block someone. I agree that politicians ought not block someone for asking tough questions. But I also think they ought to be allowed to block someone who just posts racial slurs or assassination threats ten times a day. The freedom of speech is not, and never has been, absolute.

@ragingloli Your boss standing next to you is not the same as your boss tweeting you, so blocking your boss is not the same as ignoring your boss standing next to you. By changing the parameters of your question, you implicitly conceded the failure of the original analogy. Also, blocking people does not exclude people from viewing or responding to what you are publishing. Anyone can see what a public account publishes while logged out (and accounts controlled by public officials are already required to be public accounts), and anything published there can be responded to via whatever platforms one still has access to.

For the record, US law is actually pretty clear on how this question is to be resolved. But since we were asked what should be allowed rather than what is legally allowed, I am holding that there are circumstances in which blocking constituents ought to be allowed. I also think there are circumstances in which it ought not be allowed.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Absolutely! Unless it’s a politicians OFFICIAL page, constituents are not entitled to harassment or stalking, which is against the law. Big difference between personal and professional.

Zaku's avatar

I think the problem has to do with the organization and presentation of information on social media sites.

Those sites tend to have an “idiot cage” where there is one “feed” of posts that doesn’t support categorizing information, so it creates a single spew of disorganized content. They’re often sorted to emphasize highly-reacted-to posts, which rewards busy arguments with more attention.

If someone offered a more intelligent and capable type of forum, it might better support more diverse views.

As for the existing sites the politicians tend to use (e.g. Facebook), it seems to me that if they are allowed to block dissenters, there should have to be some indication that it is happening – it should not give a misleading picture that everyone is allowed to respond and no one is responding with anything negative.

seawulf575's avatar

I guess I would ask how the social media account was set up. Was it set up as “John Smith, senator” or “John Smith (personal)”? I would think on a personal account, you should be able to block whomever you like. If you are using it as a business thing (as a senator for example) then you need to allow all your constituents access to it. Just like emails…you could have a business and a private email account and you are not required to give out your private account information.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@seawulf It has to be seperate emails by law in my state. Replies on social media, an an elected official, become part of the public record. Even from a personal account. Most people dont engage for that reason.

LadyMarissa's avatar

I’ve never known any politician who kept their personal life separate from their political life unless it involved a mistress!!! When they think that they will get more votes from being a family man, their children are paraded out & standing by their side. When they feel social media will get them more votes, they pimp themselves on their personal account. I don’t follow any politicians myself, so I don’t care who they block. At the same time, IF I choose to disagree with one of them, I don’t feel I should be blocked either!!! I see it as giving up before they’ve got my vote.Politicians used to work for their votes. Now, they expect you to just give it to them because they want it. I’m old fashioned, I like to be kissed first!!!

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