Blocking Abusers, AOC Notes She Still Follows 'Nazi Fan Fave' Laura Ingraham
Credit: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
August 30, 2019

In response to criticism of her decision to block a small number of Twitter users, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Thursday drew a clear distinction between those who engage in persistent "harrassment and abuse" and those who simply hold and express repugnant views—using Fox News host Laura Ingraham as an illustrative example of the latter.

"See? You're a neo-Nazi fan favorite and I don't block you for defending white supremacist viewpoints and mocking gun violence survivors," the New York Democrat tweeted at Ingraham.

Ocasio-Cortez's swipe at Ingraham came after the right-wing host attempted to correct the grammar of one of the congresswoman's earlier tweets, in which she defended her decision to block a select few Twitter users.

"I have 5.2 million followers. Less than 20 accounts are blocked for ongoing harassment. 0 are my constituents," Ocasio-Cortez wrote in response to Columbia University's Knight First Amendment Institute, which sent a letter urging the New York Democrat to "not to block Twitter users on the basis of viewpoint."

Ocasio-Cortez maintained she is not blocking Twitter users who disagree with her views, but those who are abusive.

"Harassment is not a viewpoint," said Ocasio-Cortez. "Some accounts, like [right-wing website] the Daily Caller, posted fake nude photos of me and abused my comments to spread it. No one is entitled to abuse."

The back-and-forth between Ocasio-Cortez and Ingraham comes after a federal appeals court ruled last month that public officials—including President Donald Trump—cannot block Twitter users "because they expressed views with which the official disagrees," a move that would violate the First Amendment.

But Ocasio-Cortez argued her decision to block a small number of Twitter accounts does not run afoul of First Amendment rights.

"People are free to speak whatever classist, racist, false, misogynistic, bigoted comments they'd like," the congresswoman wrote. "They do not have the right to force others to endure their harassment and abuse."

In its letter to Ocasio-Cortez, the Knight First Amendment Institute agreed with the congresswoman about the distinction between protected free speech and unprotected forms of harassment.

"We recognize that you may wish to block users for reasons that are both reasonable and constitutionally legitimate—for example, because their speech is threatening," the letter states. "We also recognize that abuse and harassment are significant problems on social media, especially for women and minorities, and that this abuse and harassment can deter speech and political participation that are crucial to our democracy."

In conclusion, Knight said it would be happy to work with the lawmaker on a social media policy that complies with the First Amendment while also helping to combat "threats, abuse, and harassment" that have become so prominent online.

Republished under a Creative Commons license from Common Dreams

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