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Globe editorial: Politicians are wrong to block people on social media

Should politicians block citizens they don't happen to agree with, or who are clearly partisan, from following them on social media such as Twitter and Facebook?

That's a question being asked in Canada and the United States. The answer is simple: No.

In the U.S., the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University has filed suit on behalf of people who've been blocked from following Donald Trump's personal Twitter account.

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The President uses @realDonaldTrump to announce government policy, such as the tweet in late July in which he said that he was reinstating the ban on transgender people serving in the military.

The suit argues that Mr. Trump's feed is "a public forum under the First Amendment" and that the President can't prevent people from seeing it just because they criticize him.

In Canada, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association says it is examining complaints from people who have been banned from the Facebook or Twitter feeds of MPs and cabinet ministers, or whose comments have been deleted from those feeds.

When it comes to cabinet ministers, that should never happen. Any work-related social media platform used by a minister should by default be considered a public forum, not a personal one. If someone posts a critical comment, they shouldn't be censored.

The tougher question is whether or not the work-related social media accounts of regular MPs can be held to the same standard, since they don't represent government.

Beyond the legality of it, though, lies the fact that our politicians should make a visible display of respecting the right of Canadians to disagree with them, especially in these hyper-partisan times.

No MP, or even a cabinet minister, will be criticized for blocking anyone who posts hateful messages or engages in harassment.

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But barring that, it's wrong for elected officials to choose which Canadians can see what they think, and which ones can't.

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