SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Tulane University First Amendment Law Clinic claims that a Louisiana State Senator violated the right to free political speech after she blocked a Twitter user who called for a challenger to unseat the Senator.
According to a media release from the law clinic Senator Katrina Jackson of Monroe blocked Twitter user Maya Detiege because of Detiege’s “viewpoint and critical tweets.”
The dispute started in June of 2022 after Jackson published what the law clinic describes as a “self-congratulatory tweet” about authoring Louisiana Senate Bill 342. That bill is the legislation that would outlaw almost all abortions in the state once the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade. That bill was signed into law by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards on June 17, only a few days before the SCOTUS decision on abortion was announced.
The exchange ended with Detiege criticizing a portion of the bill that Jackson claimed would combat sex trafficking and support pregnancy centers. Detiege called the funding in the bill inadequate and Jackson rebutted with “Did you advocate for more?”
Jackson’s response led Detiege to publish a tweet directed at Jackson explaining that as a sitting State Senator, it was Jackson’s role to advocate for more funding and she wished her defeat in her next bid for re-election.
The senator ultimately blocked Detiege with no explanation, which led to the university’s law clinic taking on the case in defense of free political speech.
Katie Schwartzmann, Director of the Tulane University First Amendment Law Clinic, said that Jackson’s actions violated the first amendment.
“Twitter is the modern version of the public square, the very space our founders held sacred under the First Amendment for the free exchange of differing viewpoints,” Schwartzmann said. “As an elected official, Senator Jackson should protect that space, encourage debate, and be ready to defend her stances. Shutting down dissenting voices is an attack on basic democratic values.”
The TU Law Clinic claimed that this is not Jackson’s first time blocking a Twitter user; they claim the senator has a “censorious habit” that they hope the lawsuit will break.
“Debate and dialogue are what Jackson signed up for by running for office,” Schwartzmann said. “She owes it to our democracy not to hinder the free exchange of ideas – including ones she disagrees with.”
The lawsuit, filed in the Western District of Louisiana, demands that Jackson reinstate Detiege’s access to the senator’s public Twitter account and pay her legal fees.
If successful, this case would further bolster the wide understanding under the First Amendment that public officials cannot hide from critics on public social media platforms.