Rick Calvert wants his congressman’s attention. So the Murrieta resident used Facebook and Twitter to send messages to Murrieta’s congressman, Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona – no relation.
A self-described “lifelong liberal,” Rick Calvert also has produced online videos for Indivisible 42, a grassroots group critical of the conservative congressman. One day, Rick Calvert found himself blocked from viewing Ken Calvert’s social media posts.
According to Rick Calvert, the congressman’s spokesman said he was blocked “because of something ‘he wouldn’t want children to read.’”
“I spent 20 years in talk radio as a production director, and I know communications well,” Rick Calvert wrote in an email. “Nothing I tweeted or posted on (Facebook) was threatening, though I do hit hard with the snark.
“But I know the Constitution and my rights to free speech, as it was my job for many years to know what was allowable and what was not when it came to public discourse,” Rick Calvert said. “Ken Calvert’s desire was simply to silence an opposing viewpoint. Period.”
As elected leaders use social media for public outreach, questions arise when they block accounts. In June, a group of Twitter users blocked by President Donald Trump sued, arguing that Twitter is a public forum and Trump is infringing on freedom of speech by blocking users whose opinions he dislikes.
Last month, a federal court ruled in favor of a Virginia man who was blocked after alleging school board corruption in a post on a county supervisor’s Facebook page.
“Indeed, social media may now be ‘the most important’ modern forum ‘for the exchange of views,’” the judge wrote in his decision. “The First Amendment applies to speech on social media with no less force than in other types of forums.”
But with social media comes posts rife with obscenities and threats against lawmakers. And it’s not just a problem for politicians. A 2014 Pew Research Center study found that 73 percent of adult Internet users had seen someone being harassed online, with 40 percent personally experiencing harassment.
What’s the line?
Jason Gagnon, Ken Calvert’s spokesman, said the congressman’s social media policy is essentially the same as The Press-Enterprise’s, which reserves the right to delete comments on online material “that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or…