Colorado’s first-year congresswoman, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Rifle, continues to make a name for herself in her first week in office.
But that’s come with a lot of criticism, and part of her response, at least on one social media platform — Twitter — is to block people.
That could leave her open to lawsuits, based on others filed against elected officials for doing the same thing, including President Donald Trump.
Several people have notified Colorado Politics that the gun-toting rep has blocked them on her @laurenboebert account, one of two that she holds. The second — @repboebert — appears to primarily retweet posts from the first account.
Blocking users has gotten Trump sued multiple times.
Among those blocked this week by Boebert: outgoing Rep. Bri Buentello, a Pueblo Democrat, who has not been shy about criticizing Boebert throughout the campaign. Boebert represents the 3rd Congressional District, where Buentello lives.
I feel so honored! It’s funny how free speech is allegedly sacred to these “constitutionalists” until they’re criticized. Also, any friends out there familiar with #1A laws? She is my Congresswoman, after all. #copolitics CC: @ChieftainNews, @DailySentinelGJ @WoodrowForCO pic.twitter.com/gaRdyoKvtU— Representative Bri Buentello (@Bri4CO) January 7, 2021
"I feel so honored!" Buentello quipped when finding out she'd been blocked. "It's funny how free speech is allegedly sacred to these 'constitutionalists' until they’re criticized. Also, any friends out there familiar with #1A laws? She is my Congresswoman, after all."
Buentello has either tweeted or retweeted comments about Boebert a dozen times since the Nov. 3 election, including this tweet:
Hey @laurenboebert: maybe you didn’t get the memo yet in orientation (happens to the best of us!) but you can’t block constituents. You literally work for them, representative. #TheMoreYouKnow #copolitics https://t.co/dcf4UkP6Ne— Representative Bri Buentello (@Bri4CO) December 15, 2020
"Hey @laurenboebert: maybe you didn’t get the memo yet in orientation (happens to the best of us!) but you can’t block constituents. You literally work for them, representative. #TheMoreYouKnow #copolitics" That was in response to a Dec. 14, 2020, tweet by Colorado author Suzanne Tyrpak, who also has been blocked. "@laurenboebert represents me, and she's blocked me. Big talking snowflakey," Tyrpak tweeted.
Coloradan Greg Todd told Colorado Politics he got blocked by @laurenboebert during the primary season when he asked about her qualifications. He said he was later attacked by her supporters and then blocked. "My questions and statements were never as abusive as her followers," he said Friday.
Charles Buchanan, a former legislative aide to statehouse Democrats, also has been blocked by @laurenboebert. She's also blocked a parody account (@boparody) and former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Trish Zornio.
Boebert’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
In the past several years, several lawsuits — all decided in favor of those blocked — have been litigated against elected officials who try to block constituents and critics from their social media accounts.
The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University sued President Trump in 2017 after he started blocking users on Twitter. In 2018, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that Trump violated the First Amendment in blocking users. The Institute has since filed a second lawsuit, also on Trump’s blocking of users on his @realdonaldtrump account.
“This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, ‘block’ a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the President of the United States. The answer to both questions is no,” Buchwald wrote.
Buchwald’s opinion was upheld by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals; it is now on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In Colorado, state lawmakers also have been sued for blocking constituents from their social media pages. Sen. Ray Scott, a Grand Junction Republican, settled a lawsuit filed by a critic he blocked from his Facebook and Twitter accounts. Senate President Leroy Garcia of Pueblo got into the same kind of trouble over blocking someone from his Senate President Facebook page, and settled with the man who was blocked.
The Trump Twitter account is the clearest comparison, though. Trump has two Twitter accounts: the @realdonaldtrump account from which he has done most of his communications with the public, including making unfounded claims regarding the 2020 elections and sharing policy decisions, such as his recent decision to fire Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
The other, less well-known account is @potus. It has little original content, posting mostly retweets from the @realdonaldtrump account.
In the eyes of Judge Buchwald, Twitter is a “designated public forum,” an important distinction in First Amendment law that places it in the same realm as sidewalks or other places where people publicly exercise their First Amendment rights.
But is Twitter a government entity? No, Buckwald indicated, but “when a government acts to ‘legally preserve the property under its control for the use to which it is dedicated’ ” — such as using the block feature on Twitter — “it behaves like the private owner of property.”
Buchwald also addressed Trump’s use of @realdonaldtrump, a personal Twitter account versus the official @potus account.
“... the President presents the @realDonaldTrump account as being a presidential account as opposed to a personal account and, more importantly, uses the account to take actions that can be taken only by the President as President. Accordingly, we conclude that the control that the President and [White House Deputy Chief of Staff Dan] Scavino exercise over the account and certain of its features is governmental in nature.”
Boebert uses her @laurenboebert account as the primary account to post statements related to her Congressional activities.
Buentello is among those on the hunt for someone to run against Boebert in 2022. She told Colorado Politics on Thursday that “the bottom line is that it’s Day Three of her office; on Day Two she was part of the insurrection and attempted coup of our federal office. On Day Three, she decided to block a bunch of her constituents on Twitter. This is embarrassing and a relegation of her duty. Pueblo can do better than Boebert.”
Buentello added that Boebert is not used to accepting the consequences of her actions or face public accountability. “As a representative myself, I’ve been screamed at, belittled, even spit on by a constituent. I still showed up for months, because I consider it part of my oath of office, hearing these people, letting them vent and answering their concerns. It’s what I find so offensive about Boebert: she wants the celebrity, the attention of being in public office but with none of the service.”
Buentello said she’s been talking to attorneys about potential legal action.
In related news, protests against Boebert, organized by the grassroots PAC Rural Colorado United — which also has been blocked by Boebert on Twitter — are taking place in three 3rd Congressional District cities on Friday.