NEW YORK — Two critics of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez are going to court to see her tweets. The Democratic lawmaker from The Bronx is facing lawsuits from two fellow politicians who argue that it’s unconstitutional for her to block them from her Twitter account.
The plaintiffs — former state Assembly member Dov Hikind and congressional candidate Joey Saladino — argue Ocasio-Cortez should have to play by the same rules as President Donald Trump, who a court said cannot legally shut out critics on social media.
“No one is above the law. If the courts ruled POTUS can’t block people on Twitter, why would @AOC think she can get away with silencing her critics?” Hikind, a Democrat, said in a Tuesday tweet.
The lawsuits came after a federal appeals court in Manhattan reportedly ruled that Trump, a Republican, cannot ban Twitter users he dislikes from viewing or responding to his tweets because he uses his account for official government business.
Hikind’s complaint, filed Tuesday in Brooklyn federal court, makes a similar argument: Ocasio-Cortez’s primary Twitter account is a public forum and blocking critics from accessing it violates the First Amendment, it says. The lawsuit asks the court to order the congresswoman to un-block Hikind and ban her from blocking anyone else.
Saladino, a Republican YouTube personality running for Rep. Max Rose’s Staten Island-based seat, tweeted photos of court papers Tuesday with an almost identical request. His lawsuit did not show up in online court records Wednesday, but the pictures indicate he will bring it in Manhattan federal court.
“Is a left-wing politician able to block me? Turns out a right-wing politician is not able to block people,” Saladino — who drew attention in May for tweeting that he’d “had sex thousands of times” — said in a YouTube video of himself drawing up the court papers.
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“Let’s see if the standards apply equally,” he added.
Corbin Trent, a spokesperson for Ocasio-Cortez, declined to comment on the lawsuits.
Both Hikind and Saladino appear to be blocked from Ocasio-Cortez’s main Twitter account, @AOC. It’s uncertain whether they are also blocked by her official congressional handle, @RepAOC. Hikind’s complaint notes that the former account has some 4.7 million followers, while the latter has fewer than 200,000.
In its decision about Trump’s Twitter usage, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a public official using social media for government purposes cannot legally bar members of the public from “otherwise open online dialogue” just because they dislike those people’s messages, according to The New York Times.
“This decision will ensure that people aren’t excluded from these forums simply because of their viewpoints, and that public officials aren’t insulated from their constituents’ criticism,” Jameel Jaffer, the executive director of Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute who argued the case, said in a statement.
Hikind, who is Jewish, has slammed Ocasio-Cortez in recent weeks for comparing immigrant detention facilities to concentration camps, a remark that sparked a national debate. His last tweet to the congresswoman on July 5 accused her of telling “big, gaping, stupid, asinine lies!”
Saladino has also attacked Ocasio-Cortez on a range of issues since she took office. His most recent post to her on May 9 said her ideas would “cripple the economy.” Saladino’s past messages to the lawmaker include “U annoy me lol” and “You have 2 last names, pick one.”
Neither Hikind nor Saladino live in Ocasio-Cortez’s district, which covers parts of Queens and The Bronx. But Saladino suggested that that should not be an issue.
“AOC is not my district Rep, BUT she is voting on Federal Legislation that effect (sic) ME,” he tweeted Wednesday.