Both Republicans and Democrats in the Colorado legislature have backed a bill that would allow them to use their personal social media accounts to block people.
Sponsored by Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver) and Rep. Matt Soper (R-Delta), HB23-1306 passed its third reading in the House on Monday.
Elected officials often have personal social media accounts, which are separate from the accounts representing their political offices.
“I do support this bill as it has to do with legislators’ personal pages and not their official pages,” said Rep. Karen McCormick (D-Longmont). “We all deserve our own personal space, even on social media.”
It’s no secret that many can get abusive on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and the legislation would allow elected officials to block abusers and delete their comments “for any reason, including bullying, harassment, or intimidation, in the elected official’s discretion,” HB23-1306 reads.
“People get threats, bad language and verbal abuse,” McCormick explained. “Things have gotten scary for some… luckily not for me. I tend not to communicate much via social media even on my official pages… it is used to get info out only.”
If the bipartisan bill passes, it would be the first law of its kind in the United States, Soper told The Denver Post.
The American Civil Liberties Association has come out against public officials using any of their social media accounts to block people. The Leader reached out to the organization for comment, but did not immediately hear back.
In an article published in 2017, the association said that once an elected official “intentionally opens up her social media for public conversation, she can’t stop people from joining in because of the views they express on the topics at hand… if she generally allows individuals to ask for government services through her social media account, she can’t block critical voices from doing so.”
The bill’s sponsors have said the bill is targeting trolls who harm constructive dialogue, not people who disagree with an official’s opinion.
Some lawmakers, such as McCormick, have said they prefer to avoid participating in any discussions on social media.
“I encourage folks to contact me on official business via email or phone, where there is a greater chance that we can have a respectful, productive interaction about an issue,” McCormick explained.
The bill now heads to the Senate’s State, Veterans, and Military Affairs committee for review.