New York State Senate Blocks New Yorkers on Twitter

Citizens of New York who criticize the State Senate’s Twitter account have been blocked from commenting and viewing tweets, per a letter by free speech advocacy organization FIRE.

FIRE is currently representing a New York citizen who was blocked for criticizing the state’s recently-passed gun control legislation. 

Back in June, the United States Supreme Court overturned a New York State law that mandated people to possess a license to carry a concealed firearm outside of their homes in the landmark New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen decision

In response, the New York state legislature quickly passed new gun control legislation that limited people’s ability to carry firearms among other civilian disarmament measures. 

Naturally, pro-gun New Yorkers were angry with this new anti-Second amendment legislation. They went on Twitter to manifest their anger. Per FIRE’s report, the New York State Senate’s Twitter account hid roughly 90 tweets and blocked multiple users. 

Dan Frieth of Reclaim the Net observed the following: 

Twitter allows accounts to hide replies and block people, which prevents them from commenting and seeing future tweets. The New York State Senate’s account takes advantage of these features to hide criticism of legislators and legislation.

Owing to the fact that the Senate is a government body, it is violating the First Amendment by blocking Twitter users. Multiple courts have ruled that when a government entity allows for public comments on social media, clamping down on comments and engagement constitutes an infringement on the First Amendment. 

The First Amendment “protects the pen, the press, and the pixel,” declared FIRE attorney Adam Steinbaugh. “When state actors go online, the First Amendment follows.”

“The New York State Senate cannot hide tweets or block users based on their viewpoints. In culling tweets and blocking users based on viewpoint, the New York State Senate undermines its own role in facilitating the democratic process and violates the Constitution.”

FIRE is currently representing William Silver. The New York State Senate’s Twitter account blocked Silver for criticizing the new gun control legislation. He used two words from the Second Amendment, “Shall not”, to criticize the legislation.  

“While the Senate was considering legislation on an expedited basis, I thought it was important to voice my opinion while I had the opportunity,” stated Silver. “It’s concerning that the Senate would try to prevent me from doing that. We can’t expect politicians to agree with us on every issue, but they also can’t subvert the democratic process by hiding constituents’ publicly voiced concerns.”

FIRE sent a letter to the New York State Senate urging it to unblock all users, make all hidden tweets and Facebook comments go public again, and promise to not block users again. In addition, FIRE sent a freedom of information request demanding information about every comment the State Senate account hid and the users who have been blocked. 

“Legislatures should seek out the opinions of their constituents, not disappear them,” declared FIRE attorney Harrison Rosenthal. “Our democracy depends on the ability of the public to share their views, but the New York State Senate is suppressing the views they don’t like.”

New York state is a dystopian political entity in the US. Not only is it anti-gun, but it’s also anti-free speech. Due to New York being an anti-freedom, one-party state, many activists have zero chance of effecting legislative change at the state level. As a result, lawfare is the only option for genuine political change. 

Hopefully, FIRE will be able to deliver a solid victory for free speech rights in the Empire State. 

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