LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Allowing citizens to post whatever they want on Gov. Matt Bevin’s social media accounts, including obscenities and off-topic comments, is "the height of absurdity," Bevin’s attorneys argued in federal court records filed Monday.
The motion, arguing against a summary judgment request by the ACLU asking a judge to force Bevin to unblock people on Twitter and Facebook, included a twitter comment to the governor telling him to "suck the sh** directly out of my a**."
"According to the ACLU, the Constitution requires Governor Bevin to allow obscene comments like this on his social media accounts," wrote Bevin’s attorneys.
The result, they argue, would be a "cyber Wild West, where internet trolls would hijack his accounts with all manner of obscene, abusive, and off-topic comments to distract attention from the messages that the Governor wishes to communicate. This would destroy the communicative value of the Governor’s social media accounts."
The ACLU of Kentucky filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in 2017 that argued the governor's actions to block constituents on social media violate the U.S. Constitution.
But Bevin's attorneys claim the case is not about protecting free speech for citizens, arguing the governor is not preventing anyone from saying what they want.
"The Plaintiffs have not been imprisoned, fined, or punished in any way as a result of their speech, and they remain just as free today to say whatever they want as they were before their social media accounts were blocked by the Governor’s accounts," according to the recent filing.
Instead, Bevin's attorneys argue citizens have only been blocked from using particular social media accounts to comment on the governor’s posts, after violating internal policies. The user can always create a new account, Bevin argues.
Citizens have been blocked for telling Bevin to pay his property taxes, chiding him on his response to the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting and cursing. In all, Bevin and his officials have blocked about 3,000 people.
The documents filed Monday include several copies of social media comments to Bevin in which constituents curse at Bevin or wish him harm.
This comes about a month after the ACLU released screenshots of users blocked for using mild obscenities or posting off-topic, and showing that Bevin called some citizens "trolls."
Bevin's lawyers fought turning over internal text messages and emails, as well as the offending tweets and Facebook messages. A judge, however, ordered the governor to release them last month. The ACLU has about 1,700 pages of sreenshots of blocked users but has not publicly filed all of them.
For example, Bevin told a staff member that one person was a "whiny, off topic social media troll" who added no value to the conversation. Elizabeth Kuhn, the governor's communications director, responded with a "thumbs up" emoji.
Bevin ordered another person to be blocked for posting "unrelated crap." Woody Maglinger, a governor's spokesman, replied back with "will do" and a "thumbs up" emoji.
Bevin asked that a woman be blocked on Facebook because "there is a limit on idiocy and she has surpassed it."
Bevin staffers testified people were blocked for posting obscenities, including "offensive emojis," repeatedly posting on the same issue and for not staying on topic, according to the documents.
In the most recently filed documents, Bevin's attorneys argued citizens want "to exercise a heckler’s video over the Governor’s ability to communicate directly with the public."
The motion argues people are not blocked for being critical of the governor, as alleged by the ACLU, but "to maintain order and clarity of thought on his social media accounts" and to ensure it is a "family-friendly" space where people are not "bombarded with obscene and abusive language from internet trolls."
When asked who decides what is obscene, a staffer testified that it would be up to whoever was monitoring the governor's account at that time.
"You know it when you see it," testified Blake Brickman, Bevin's chief of staff, according to court records.
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