By Brendan McCarthy and June Leffler June 15, 2017
Gov. Matt Bevin in recent months has turned to social media platforms to slam local media and share his political views directly with followers.
But as Bevin ramped up his criticism and online dispatches, he’s also blocked more than 500 Twitter users from following him, according to records released this week by ProPublica, a national investigative newsroom.
Bevin’s list of blocked social media users — obtained by ProPublica through a records request — includes many people who have shared their disdain for Bevin or President Donald Trump.
Bevin’s not alone in booting folks from following his 140-character messages. Trump has banned more than a few. Even Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer had sought to silence some tweeting gadflies.
The practice, however, has potential legal ramifications and could soon play out in court.
Attorneys for several Twitter users blocked by Trump are arguing that his account is a public forum and that the government cannot constitutionally exclude critics, The New York Times reported this week.
The attorneys issued a letter to Trump and hinted that if the blocking continues, a lawsuit could follow.
Bevin’s office released the following statement Thursday:
Gov. Bevin is a strong advocate of constructive dialogue, and he welcomes thoughtful input from all viewpoints on his social media platforms. Unfortunately, a small number of users misuse those outlets by posting obscene and abusive language or images, or repeated off-topic comments and spam. Constituents of all ages should be able to engage in civil discourse with Gov. Bevin via his social media platforms without being subjected to vulgarity or abusive trolls.
The office also issue a tweet — citing a “#FAKENEWS ALERT” — along with a video criticizing the media.
Attorney General Andy Beshear said his office, which weighs violations of the Open Records Act, has never issued an opinion “about the nature of social media and whether blocking someone violates the open records law.”
To date, no one has filed an appeal challenging a public official’s social media blockade.
Beshear declined to share his views on the matter and called it inappropriate because the office may have to tackle the issue in the future.
Beshear said he has never blocked anyone on Twitter. The Twitter account of his predecessor, Attorney General Jack Conway, had barred several followers. Beshear said he had his staff unblock those users.