US District Judge James Cacheris in Alexandria, Virginia, ruled on Tuesday that a Facebook page of Loudoun County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) “operates as a forum for speech under the First Amendment to the US Constitution,”according to a copy of the decision obtained by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.
The ruling comes from a lawsuit filed by Brian Davison who sued Randall in February of last year after he was banned from the “Chair Phyllis J. Randall” Facebook page for around eight hours. Davison was still able to read and share content posted to the pages, but could not post comments or send private messages to Randall.
Cacheris ruled that the consequences of Randall’s actions were “fairly minor,” however, he said that she committed "a cardinal sin under the First Amendment."
“The court holds only that under the specific circumstances presented here, [the] defendant violated the First Amendment by engaging in viewpoint discrimination and banning plaintiff from a digital forum for criticizing her colleagues in the county government,” Cacheris wrote.
Randall said she temporarily blocked Davison after he posted comments critical comments “attacking the family members of the Loudoun County School Board.”
“I value our right to free speech and I have fought to defend that right,”Chair Randall said in a statement. “The court’s decision, however, does not mean that people should make disparaging, untrue, or slanderous remarks about elected officials or their family members on social media.”