ACLU, Hogan administration negotiating settlement over deleted Facebook comments

Erin Cox
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

The American Civil Liberties Union is negotiating a settlement of a federal lawsuit it filed against the Hogan Administration that alleged the governor violated the First Amendment rights of constituents by deleting comments from his Facebook page.

The lawsuit, filed last August, accused the Republican governor of censoring people when his staff systematically deleted comments that were critical of his administration or challenged him to condemn President Donald J. Trump. The commenters were labeled spammers and prevented from posting in the future.

ACLU of Maryland’s legal director Deborah Jeon said in a statement that if a settlement is reached, the civil rights group would dismiss the lawsuit.

“The dismissal is contingent on settlement being finalized,” Jeon said. “We are working on that. If settlement is not finalized, the case will be reinstated.”

A Hogan spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

When the case was filed, a spokeswoman called it a “frivolous lawsuit” and a “waste of taxpayer dollars.”

The administration says that it considers coordinated political attacks on the governor’s Facebook page as spam and removes those comments. They also remove comments and ban people who post hateful or violent content.

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