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January 7, 2019

The following statement may be attributed to ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga in regards to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in the case of Davison v. Randall. Along with ACLU national and other affiliates in the Fourth Circuit, the ACLU of Virginia had filed an amicus brief in the case, siding with the plaintiff who argued that the defendant, the chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, could not block constituents from social media accounts used for official business.

“The Fourth Circuit ruling makes clear that, if a public official maintains a social media account to talk about official business and invites constituents to participate, a public forum has been created. People then can’t be denied access based on the viewpoints they express. The court held that First Amendment protections apply even though the Loudoun County chair used a privately-run social media platform. If it is a government-run public forum, then constitutional free speech guarantees against viewpoint-based discrimination apply.

“The Fourth Circuit has sent a strong message to public officials and agencies in Virginia and other states in the circuit. You cannot ban speech you don’t like from social media accounts you use to invite constituents to talk about government business. Public officials at all levels of government should act quickly to comply with this ruling.”