Residents of the Garden State who support the Second Amendment are more than acquainted with the name Joe Danielsen. Danielsen, a Democrat in the state Assembly, was the alleged author of New Jersey’s so-called “carry-killer” legislation. While there’s no doubt that Danielsen had no issues with what was in the bill, even though he really did not know what was in it when questioned on it, I don’t believe there’s any way on planet Earth the Assemblyman has the intellectual capacity to author such a piece of legislation without major help from the gun control lobby.
One of the things Danielsen has done since becoming a turncoat to New Jersey patriots is the censoring of his social media posts. Previously I reported on the dullard’s practice of not allowing comments on his Facebook posts. Recently a New Jersey activist took to contacting Danielsen about his censoring of political speech and the apparatchik did respond to her.
Susan Zorn recently sent Danielsen a private message via Facebook Messenger, which she shared online. In it, she told the assemblyman to “turn [his] comments on,” and informed him that he’s been “breaking the law.” Zorn included a 2019 article from the American Civil Liberties Union specifically discussing a court ruling on the very topic.
One of the core purposes of the First Amendment is to allow people, regardless of their views, to hold the government accountable through expression. So, if your elected representative has an official Facebook page where she invites comments, can she block you from commenting because you criticize her work?
According to a federal appeals court, the answer is a resounding no.
On Monday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the interactive portion of a public official’s Facebook page is a “public forum,” so an official cannot block people from it because of the opinions they hold.
The case arose after the chair of a local board of supervisors in Virginia, Phyllis Randall, briefly blocked a critic from her official Facebook page and deleted a comment he made about her colleagues’ management of public funds.
How did Danielsen reply to this mini-education? At first an automated “thank you for being a good doobie and writing in” message went off to Zorn. But Danielsen did eventually reply.
Sir, you should read the law before opining on it or ask someone for help.
Danielsen may have a point, but if so it’s a minor one. The specific case that Zorn quoted was out of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and New Jersey falls within the jurisdiction of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
What’s the actual case law on the topic on a national level? Beats me. However, there has been more than one instance of politicians being sued over this topic and being told that such censorship is a big “no-no.”
The ACLU further points out some of the minutiae of the topic.
It is important to remember that people who hold public office can wear two hats: Sometimes, they act as private individuals, and other times they are government actors. While they maintain their First Amendment rights when acting as private individuals, they are subject to the limits the First Amendment places on the government whenever they’re doing government work.
As the court rightly held, that includes any time that they’re controlling a Facebook page they maintain in their official roles. Specifically, the court recognized that when a public official uses a Facebook page as a tool of governance — that is, when she uses it to inform the public about her government work, solicits input on policy issues through the page, and swathes it “in the trappings of her office” — she is controlling the page as a government actor.
Zorn’s response to Danielsen was quite priceless, to which there have been no further replies.
I know you’re not very bright but there aren’t many people named Susan who are sirs. It’s disgusting that you censor opposing viewpoints on your official page. But I don’t expect anything more from you.
Zinger from Zorn. And to Zorn’s overall point – Danielsen may have some of the law on his side – this practice is beyond unfavorable coming from so-called public servants. The censorship of political speech is deplorable and we can expect nothing less from a tyrant who saw to the disarmament of the people he swore to serve.
Is what Danielsen is doing legal? How about case law in New Jersey? Maybe or maybe not. However, if I were Danielsen, I’d use this as an opportunity to open up the floodgates of comments, whatever they might be, to his social media pages. Given the level of discontent that many of the people have for him in New Jersey, would getting slapped with a lawsuit over something like this be worth it?
Perhaps this is the perfect time to launch a class action lawsuit. Anyone out there that has the wit, means, and motivation, this might be your brass ring. In the meantime, any little crevice that Danielsen leaves open on his socials will continue to get peppered with comments, as seems to be the going thing the last year plus.
The man did make his bed, the least he can do is lie in it like a real man.