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Liberal Group Sues Wisconsin Republicans Over Twitter Blocks

One Wisconsin Now Files Lawsuit Arguing 3 Top Republicans Violated First Amendment

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Matt Rourke/AP Photo

The liberal group One Wisconsin Now is suing three GOP state lawmakers for blocking the organization on Twitter, arguing the step amounted to a violation of the First Amendment.

“Public officials have created a public forum using public resources to discuss public policy,” said One Wisconsin Now director Scot Ross. “It should be open to all members of the public, period.”

The federal lawsuit is targeting Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, who co-chairs the legislature’s budget committee, and Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum.

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It contends their Twitter accounts amount to digital town halls, in which lawmakers use tweets to communicate news and information to the public, and members of the public can reply to exchange views.

When one Twitter user blocks another Twitter user, the blocked user can’t see the person’s tweets as easily, and they can’t reply to them directly.

“They are impeding our ability to see their communications, and they are doing it because they disagree with our positions on issues,” Ross said.

Kremer weighed in on the lawsuit via Twitter.

“Maybe they should put out useful tweets so they weren’t treated as email spammers on a forum for my constituents,” Kremer wrote, referencing One Wisconsin Now.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukana, who was not named in the lawsuit, called it frivolous.

“It’ll be fascinating to see how they argue the Constitution guarantees them the right to respond directly to pols on Twitter ;),” Steineke wrote.

Vos and Nygren did not take to Twitter to discuss the lawsuit. A spokesperson for Vos did not respond to a request for comment.

In its Twitter profile, One Wisconsin Now describes itself as a liberal group that does liberal things. It regularly uses the forum to attack, or mock Republicans.

Ross said that that doesn’t give Republicans a right to keep his group out of the conversation.

“I believe snark is protected under the First Amendment,” Ross said.

While this may be the first lawsuit of its kind in Wisconsin, a similar lawsuit has been filed against President Donald Trump by seven people the president blocked on Twitter.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 4 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 1, with original reporting by WPR staff.