Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

DISABILITY RIGHTS ACTIVIST FILES FIRST AMENDMENT SUIT CHALLENGING CHASKA PD SOCIAL MEDIA BAN

 

January 4, 2019



Noah McCourt is a well-known activist in the areas of mental health and disability rights. In addition to being appointed to the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, Noah serves on a number of non-profit and government boards. As part of his advocacy, Noah has been critical and sometimes litigates against government agencies that fail to provide inclusive services and accessible facilities for disabled people. He has filed suit against the Chaska Police Department over their social media policy after being banned from their Twitter site.

In November 2017, the Chaska Police Department started a Twitter site. The site is funded under the department’s budget. The site references a social media policy that allows the department to remove certain posts or people not using their proper names but it has no provision for banning people based on critical posts.

Noah began posting to the Chaska PD Twitter site shortly after it was started. Many of his posts were critical of Chaska PD’s handling of people in mental health crisis. In February 2018, he learned he had been blocked from the Chaska PD Twitter site. He was not notified by any Chaska employee that he was blocked and he was not provided with any process for challenging his exclusion from the site. He complained to the city but never got a response. Noah filed suit to challenge his exclusion from the site and the city’s social medial policy, which violates the First Amendment and encourages censorship of protected activity.

In explaining his lawsuit, Noah said, “When the Chaska PD started their Twitter site, they created a public forum. By excluding people from a public forum, they violate the First Amendment rights of those who disagree with them.”

Civil rights attorney Zorislav Leyderman stated “Noah’s lawsuit is believed to be one of the earliest to challenge social media censorship in the Eighth Circuit [which includes Minnesota] but there is strong precedent in decisions coming out of other federal circuits.”

In a May 2018 declaratory judgment in Knight Institute v Trump, Federal Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald found that Donald Trump violated the First Amendment when he blocked critics on social media. "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.”

The case is expected to be heard in Federal Court later this year.

 

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