Social media has been widely adopted by governmental agencies and officials at all levels to communicate with their constituents and disseminate announcements regarding public health, national security, and other important information. This has allowed them to better engage the public, inviting public discourse and debate.
This has been a positive development, bringing government closer to the people, and facilitating easy communication back and forth.
But most social media services also give government agencies and officials the ability to block members of the public—that is, to exclude individuals from directly receiving such messages and from communicating in the interactive components of the accounts, such as by commenting or replying. These tools are employed widely, and we have seen rapidly multiplying efforts by those same officials and agencies to censor speech with which they disagree and exclude certain constituents.
When a government agency or official blocks individuals based on their viewpoints, it commits two distinct, though related, First Amendment violations. First, it violates the right of access—that is, the right to receive information from the government that is generally made available to the public. Second, it violates the right to speak in a forum that has generally been open for public communication, either with the government or with other members of the public.