Vernon Jones, a Trump-supporting former Georgia state senator, has been ordered by a federal judge to pay $45,000 to a one-time constituent he had blocked on Facebook, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Jones blocked his constituent, Tomas Miko, from his social media page after the two exchanged testy posts in March 2020 about proposed immigration legislation sponsored by Jones when he was a state representative. Also following their crossfire, Jones deleted Miko’s dissenting comments,” reported Bill Rankin. “Miko filed a federal lawsuit against Jones a few months later, alleging Jones deleted Miko’s comments to silence his criticism. In a decision issued last year, U.S. District Judge Steven Grimberg noted that when public figures block constituents from their social media profiles to prevent them from expressing contrary views, such acts constitute ‘viewpoint discrimination.'”
“Grimberg also found that Miko’s claims were sufficient to prove liability and issued a judgment against Jones, who never responded to the lawsuit or tried to defend it,” said the report. Miko was awarded $8,000 in damages and $37,652 in legal fees.
Jones, a Democrat-turned-Republican with a controversial history of corruption and sexual assault allegations, originally mounted a campaign for governor in which he denied the results of the 2020 election and challenged Republican incumbent Brian Kemp for not doing enough to overturn them.
Trump himself ultimately intervened in favor of his preferred gubernatorial candidate, former Sen. David Perdue, and promised Jones an endorsement for Georgia’s 10th Congressional District instead if he dropped out of the governor’s race, which he did. In the end, not only did Jones lose his Congressional primary bid to Mike Collins, even Perdue himself was defeated decisively by Kemp.
Case law on whether public officials are allowed to block or delete messages from constituents on their official government accounts is still new and evolving, but this is not the first time courts have sided with constituents on the issue. In 2018, former President Donald Trump himself was found by a federal judge to have violated the Constitution by blocking critics on Twitter.