- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reached a settlement in a lawsuit filed by former Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who accused the lawmaker of violating the First Amendment by blocking him on Twitter.
- In a statement obtained by Insider, Ocasio-Cortez said on Monday that Hikind was exercising his constitutionally-protected right to free speech by criticizing her on Twitter. She unblocked him.
- “In retrospect, it was wrong and improper and does not reflect the values I cherish. I sincerely apologize for blocking Mr. Hikind,” she said.
- But the congresswoman insisted that she won’t refrain from blocking accounts in the future that she believes are engaging in improper harassment.
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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reached a settlement in a lawsuit filed by former Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who accused the lawmaker of violating the First Amendment by blocking him on Twitter.
In a statement obtained by Insider, Ocasio-Cortez said on Monday that she had “reconsidered” her decision to block Hikind from her account. She conceded that Hikind, an outspoken conservative, was exercising his constitutionally-protected right to free speech by criticizing her on Twitter.
The announcement, first reported by the New York Post, comes just one day before Ocasio-Cortez was scheduled to testify in federal court in Brooklyn.
“Mr. Hikind has a First Amendment right to express his views and should not be blocked for them,” she said. “In retrospect, it was wrong and improper and does not reflect the values I cherish. I sincerely apologize for blocking Mr. Hikind.”
The lawmaker, who has 5.7 million Twitter followers, previously defended her decision to block about 20 Twitter users from her personal account because she argued that their online behavior amounted to harassment.
“Harassment is not a viewpoint,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in August. “Some accounts, like the Daily Caller, posted fake nude photos of me & abused my comments to spread it. No one is entitled to abuse.”
In her Monday statement, the congresswoman insisted that she won’t refrain from blocking accounts from following her or reading her tweets in the future when she believes the users have engaged in improper harassment.
“Now and in the future, however, I reserve the right to block users who engage in actual harassment or exploit my personal/campaign account, @AOC, for commercial or other improper purposes,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez’s move is a surprising about-face, given that she publicly defended her decision to block users just a few months ago. A source close to the lawmaker also recently defended her attempts to block users who reply to her tweets with provocative comments as a way to boost their following.
“I think not letting right-wing trolls use you as a springboard to elevate their hateful platform is a fine thing to do,” the source told Insider in October. “It’s not even really about her hearing it or seeing the vitriol. It’s about using – clout chasers.”
Some prominent First Amendment experts have urged Ocasio-Cortez in recent months to reverse her decision to block critics on the social media platform.
“The @AOC account is important to you as a legislator, to your constituents, and to others who seek to understand and influence your legislative decisions and priorities,” Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute wrote in an August letter to the congresswoman.
The Institute praised Ocasio-Cortez’s reversal on Monday.
“We applaud Rep. Ocasio-Cortez for recognizing that she was wrong to block critics from her Twitter account,” Katie Fallow, a senior staff attorney, said in a statement. “We hope that other public officials who are blocking critics from their social media accounts take Ocasio-Cortez’s lead.”
Legal precedent wasn’t in Ocasio-Cortez’s favor. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in July that President Donald Trump is violating the First Amendment by blocking critics from his Twitter account. The government petitioned for re-hearing in August.
The appeals court held that when the president and other public officials use online forums like Twitter for government business, they transform them into public forums subject to First Amendment protections.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals similarly ruled last January that a local elected official in Virginia violated the First Amendment when she blocked a constituent on Facebook for 12 hours.
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