An emerging debate about whether elected officials violate people's free speech rights by blocking them on social media is spreading across the U.S. as groups sue or warn politicians to stop the practice.
The American Civil Liberties Union this week sued Maine Gov. Paul LePage and sent warning letters to Utah's congressional delegation. It followed recent lawsuits against the governors of Maryland and Kentucky and President Donald Trump.
Trump's frequent and often unorthodox use of Twitter and allegations he blocks people with dissenting views has raised questions about what elected officials can and cannot do on their official social media pages.
Politicians at all levels increasingly embrace social media to discuss government business, sometimes at the expense of traditional town halls or in-person meetings.
"People turn to social media because they see their elected officials as being available there and they're hungry for opportunities to express their opinions and share feedback," said Anna Thomas, spokeswoman for the ACLU of Utah. "That includes people who disagree with public officials."
Most of the officials targeted so far — all Republicans — say they are not violating free speech but policing social media pages to get rid of people who post hateful, violent, obscene or abusive messages.