Another San Diego County elected official has been sued over their use of social media.
On August 17, Escondido resident Benjamin Martinez sued Escondido Mayor Sam Abed in state court, alleging the North County politician blocked Martinez from commenting on Abed’s Facebook posts.
According to the lawsuit, Abed’s decision to block Martinez was, “payback for past criticism and to prevent him from publicizing his concerns in the future...”
The lawsuit states that Abed’s use of Facebook to distribute public information transformed Abed’s social media profile from private to public. And, in doing so, Martinez’s right to free speech was essentially squashed.
Martinez is not the only resident of Escondido to have been blocked by Abed on social media.
Through a public record request, NBC 7 Investigates found Abed blocked three profiles on Facebook and two Twitter accounts, including San Diego’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Abed did not respond to NBC 7 Investigates’ questions about the blocked profiles or the newly filed lawsuit.
Abed is not the only public official in San Diego County to block profiles on their social media pages. NBC 7 Investigates submitted more than 100 requests under the California Public Records Act to local municipalities looking for the “blocked lists” or accounts that public officials have blocked on social media.
Every elected official in San Diego County responded to the request, except for El Cajon City Councilmember Ben Kalasho.
“Staff in this office has requested access to the accounts or records responsive to [NBC 7 Investigates’] request but, to date, Councilmember Kalasho has not given the city access to his accounts or any documents,” said Barbara Luck, a Staff Attorney for the city of El Cajon.
Records received show that dozens of elected officials have blocked profiles from commenting on their public social media pages.
To see what NBC 7 Investigates found, look below or click here.
National City’s Vice Mayor Albert Mendivil blocked the most accounts, according to the records received. He blocked 69 Facebook users from his page. Mendivil did not respond to NBC 7’s request for comment.
Mendivil’s counterpart on the National City council, Mayor Ron Morrison had the fourth highest number. Morrison blocked 21 Facebook users, according to records obtained by NBC 7 Investigates.
In June, Morrison told NBC 7 Investigates that he barred “people that just go entirely over the top.”
But preventing users from logging onto and commenting on issues has prompted legal action, both nationally and in San Diego County.
In May of this year a federal judge ruled that President Trump’s decision to block Twitter users from seeing his account violated their first amendment rights.
Locally, Escondido’s mayor Sam Abed is the third elected official to be sued for barring certain social media users from seeing his page.
National City’s mayor Ron Morrison was sued in June. Morrison has since filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on grounds that his Facebook profile is not a public forum.
Earlier this month, El Cajon councilmember Ben Kalasho was also sued by a resident for blocking them on social media.
Attorney Briggs is the attorney in all three suits.
“Sadly, the number of thin-skinned politicians in this county appears to be growing,” Briggs told NBC 7 Investigates. “They invite everyone to ‘like’ them on Facebook or ‘follow’ them on Twitter...but as soon as someone criticizes them, even when done factually and civilly, they block the person from the forum.”
“That’s like locking the doors to city hall because you don’t like the messenger, even before you hear the message. The First Amendment does not allow such retaliation.”