HELP US KEEP REPORTING. DONATE TO ORLANDO WEEKLY PRESS CLUB.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Florida Rep. Mike Hill is violating the constitution by blocking everyone who disagrees with him on Twitter

Posted By on Fri, Jun 7, 2019 at 3:30 PM

click to enlarge Me and you and everyone we know, apparently.
  • Me and you and everyone we know, apparently.

Florida Rep. Mike Hill, a Confederate statue-loving Republican lawmaker who recently mustered up arguably the worst apology imaginable after he was caught laughing at the concept of murdering gay people, is apparently not taking online criticism very well.

Besides never passing a single bill into law, Hill has also been busy the last few weeks blocking everyone in existence on Twitter, notably critics, members of the media, his colleagues in the Florida House and even a Pulse survivor.



Two days ago, Hill blocked Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat who has been calling for his resignation and is also openly gay. “He mad at me,” tweeted Smith after learning he was blocked.

Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the mass shooting at the gay night club Pulse, also learned he was blocked after questioning how Hill would explain his actions to the Pulse community. “When I asked him how he’d explain his comments to the Pulse community, who’ve suffered the violence he giggled about, he blocked me too,” said Wolf in the same thread.

So far, Hill has also blocked Equality Florida, state Rep. Anna Eskamani, state Sen. Annette Taddeo, Miami New Times reporter Jerry Iannelli, Florida filmmaker Billy Corben, me (and I should mention that I’ve literally never tweeted at Hill) and probably anyone else who isn’t a Russian bot or the host of a QAnon web show.

Can I can live my life without seeing him retweet bigoted garbage on my timeline? Yes. But not only does getting blocked on Twitter make it harder for Hill’s colleagues and members of the media to monitor his actions, like when he suggests we replace the term "LGBTQ" with a question mark to "cover the whole thing," it’s actually unconstitutional.

Last year, a federal judge in New York sided with plaintiffs who were blocked by President Donald Trump’s @realdonaldtrump Twitter account, calling it a “designated public forum.” “The suppression of critical commentary regarding elected officials is the quintessential form of viewpoint discrimination against which the First Amendment guards,” wrote the judge.

Obviously the plaintiffs in the case, which included members of the media, as well as the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, agreed with the ruling. “The First Amendment prohibits government officials from suppressing speech on the basis of viewpoint,” said Katie Fallow, a senior staff attorney at the institute. “The court’s application of that principle here should guide all of the public officials who are communicating with their constituents through social media.”

This includes Hill, who coincidentally sits on the House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee.

Elected officials can try to argue that their Twitter account is personal or that they’re just weeding out the trolls, but by preemptively blocking critics, they’re suppressing the right to petition to redress grievances. Also important: Taking criticism is part of the job, not just for elected officials but for members of the media too. The only difference is my account is not subject to First Amendment restrictions based on someone else's viewpoints, but Hill’s most definitely is.

To check if you, too, are blocked by Mike Hill, visit his Twitter page.

Stay on top of Orlando news and views. Sign up for our weekly Headlines newsletter.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at feedback@orlandoweekly.com.

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

November 25, 2020

View more issues

Calendar

© 2020 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation