JEFFERSON CITY — Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch, R-Hallsville, was within her rights to block a constituent on Twitter, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled Wednesday.
The ruling is the latest in a saga of legal action that began in June 2018, when Centralia resident Mike Campbell filed a suit against Reisch on First Amendment grounds after he was blocked from the representative’s Twitter account. Campbell learned that Reisch blocked him after he retweeted a reply to the representative that was critical of her original Tweet, according to previous Missourian reporting.
In 2019, U.S. District Court Judge Brian C. Wimes ruled in favor of Campbell and said his exclusion from the “interactive space” of Reisch’s Twitter because of his viewpoints was inconsistent with the First Amendment.
However, Judge Steven M. Colloton of the Eighth Circuit wrote in Wednesday’s ruling that “Reisch’s own First Amendment right to craft her campaign materials necessarily trumps Campbell’s desire to convey a message on her Twitter page that she does not wish to convey.” Colloton said that Reisch’s account is “more akin to a campaign newsletter than anything else,” and suggested people show their disagreement with how she runs the account at the polls or on their own social media.
“He never called me, he never emailed me,” Reisch said. “It’s not like he couldn’t have picked up a phone and called me if he wanted to discuss governmental policy.”
She attributed the lawsuit to a degradation of civility in politics and on social media and pointed toward other lawsuits against lawmakers who blocked critics on social media, including former President Donald Trump.
“The vitriol going on in this day and age, people I call keyboard warriors, they don’t know how to be civil, they don’t know how to not name-call,” she said.