Senator Pan Sued By Anti-Vaccine Activists For Blocking Them On Twitter
California state Senator, Richard Pan, is being sued by anti-vaccine activist who claims that Pan has compromised their First Amendment rights. The lawsuit’s claims stem from Senator Pan blocking several anti-vaccine activists from his Twitter feed, an act the activist claims deny them their Constitutional right to contact a public servant.
Because Pan is a government official, the lawsuit seeks to categorize his Twitter account as a modern public forum.
The lawsuit claims that Pan removes people from accessing his Twitter account’s feed in cases where people’s viewpoints don’t reflect his.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Suzanne Rummel and Marlene Burkitt filed the lawsuit. Both have a history of engaging Pan over vaccine issues.
Senator Pan is the engineer and writer of California’s controversial mandatory vaccine law, Senate Bill 277. The law eliminated parents from claiming a personal belief exemption from vaccinating their children.
Here’s a formal copy of the lawsuit filed by Rummel and Burkitt.
Back in May of 2018, a judge ruled against President Trump for similar Twitter blocking activity.
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Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald said of in his public comments that Trump’s Twitter feed is a public forum.
“This ruling should put them on notice, and if they censor critics from social media accounts used for official purposes, they run the risk that someone will sue them and win,”
The Justice Department asserted their position of disagreement and wouldn’t confirm that they would unblock the Twitter users on Trump’s account. Judge Reice refused to issue a directive or injunction over the matter due to the decision weighing on on the interest of the President’s power.
There is little question that modern social media has vastly changed the landscape of politics in concern with how public servants communicate with citizens. The question now becomes, can a politician treat their public social media accounts similarly to the way other non-public servants treat theirs?
The decision in Trump’s case has likely set a precedent for Pan. However, Pan is a Democrat, and the lawsuit is filed in a predominantly blue state.
If Pan were to triumph in the case, it would serve as an abysmal representation of the injustice fueled by political bias. I don’t see this as a likely scenario, however, and fully expect Pan to reopen his Twitter for dissenting opinions.
Politicians need to be accepting of all viewpoints in any public forum. Politicians aren’t required to use Twitter, they do so for campaign benefit reasons. The issue is easily resolved by simply cancelling the Twitter account, something both Pan and Trump aren’t likely to do.
What do you think? Leave us a comment below. Do you believe politicians should be forced to leave their Twitter accounts open to the public?
Photo by Dr. Richard Pan, Assemblymember
Author: Jim Satney
PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.