Cleveland politicians accused of silencing social media dissent

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Two candidates for Cleveland mayor stand accused of silencing dissent by blocking critics on social media.

A quick search on Twitter reveals Mayor Frank Jackson and Ward 2 Councilman Zack Reed, who is also running for mayor, have blocked a number of users after those users said they sent critical tweets.

Michael Ettore is a critic of both Jackson and Reed and has been documenting the complaints.

“There was no profane language, no aggressive criticism and these people had been blocked,” Ettore said. “The transparency level at city hall and the mayor’s office needs to increase and the action’s they’ve taken do not increase transparency whatsoever.”

Ettore said it’s not just bad form. It may even be unconstitutional. In July, a federal judge in Virginia ruled a local politician violated the First Amendment when she blocked a constituent on her official Facebook page. In Maine, the sate’s ACLU is going to bat for a pair of Facebook users who were blocked by Governor Paul LePage.

"They were just disagreeing and the governor’s page blocked them because they didn’t agree with what he was proposing,” ACLU spokeswoman Meagan Sway said.

"There’s many, many problems in the city that still exist,” Ettore said. “So blocking criticism and blocking new ideas isn’t going to help us whatsoever.”

“We will block Twitter users who are offensive, threatening or profane,” Jackson campaign spokesman Joe Mosbrook said Thursday. "It’s a subjective thing, but we're fair about it. We welcome constructive criticism."

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