ACLU: Nebraska lawmakers shouldn't block on social media

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The ACLU of Nebraska wants public officials to not block critics from their government-affiliated social media accounts.

The Nebraska ACLU sent letters to officials on Thursday encouraging them to correct problems before litigation options are explored. The letters were sent to U.S. Senator Deb Fischer, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, U.S. Representative Adrian Smith, U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry, U.S. Representative Don Bacon, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, and the York County Sheriff’s office. The ACLU received multiple complaints regarding U.S. Senator Fischer and Omaha Mayor Stothert, which the ACLU says is particularly concerning.

“Blocking someone from viewing public information on a government operated social media page is a clear violation of the First Amendment. We would not tolerate a government agency kicking a concerned constituent out of a public hearing just because they disagree with an elected official. The same principals apply in the digital age. When an elected official or government agency is using social media to communicate with the public, the government cannot pick and choose who gets to see that information. If a government official wants to maintain a private account, they certainly have the right to do so. But that private account cannot be used to conduct official government business,” said ACLU of Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller.

A spokeswoman for Fischer says staff members are reviewing settings on the senator's social media pages. Stothert says she doesn't block people for criticizing her on Facebook, but she does hide and ban commenters who violate her Facebook page's terms of use.