Tuesday, 11 December 2018 16:43

LePage settles lawsuit claiming he censored Facebook comments

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AUGUSTA (WGME) - Gov. Paul LePage is settling a lawsuit claiming that he censored comments posted on his Facebook page. Administrators of the page now must unblock users who posted criticisms of the governors.


While it is still unclear who actually runs the page, First Amendment advocates said the case sends an important message to all politicians.


"On the day I was blocked, I was commenting -- it was during the government shutdown," said Karin Leuthy, one of the two Maine women who sued the governor.


The women's comments on the "Paul LePage, Maine's Governor" Facebook page were deleted -- and they were blocked from commenting.


"It's been over a year that we and others who were blocked haven't been able to communicate with our governor," she said.


The ACLU of Maine took on the case against the governor, claiming he was illegally censoring comments from people who disagreed with him.



"That violates core First Amendment principles that people should be able to engage in a public forum and not be censored on the basis of their viewpoints," ACLU attorney Emma Bond said.


The ACLU now has settled its lawsuit against the governor and now those who were blocked can post again and administrators of the page are not allowed to block or censor comments.


"I'm very glad to have my rights back to petition my government and have my freedom of speech restored," Leuthy said.


During the dispute, an attorney for the governor argued  the page is not operated by government officials. The governor's office said the governor has nothing to do with the operation of the page.


The governor's press secretary said  the administrators of the page, which was created before he became governor, are among his supporters and the governor does not review the content of the page.


Bond, however, said the parties continue to have differing positions on that.


The settlement is signed by LePage's political adviser Brent Littlefield, who declined to answer questions about the settlement or say if he runs the page.


The ACLU pointed out the page is verified with a blue check mark and some posts are in the first person.


Furthermore, LePage said in a radio interview that he uses Facebook to bypass the media and communicate directly with the public.


The ACLU said the case is an important step forward for First Amendment rights.


"We hope it sends a signal to all elected officials in Maine that they should respect free speech rights on the internet," Bond said.


Anyone who believes they were wrongly blocked by the page now can be unblocked by emailing a request to aclumaine.org by Thursday.




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