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Is Coach Harsin Violating the Constitution By Blocking People on Twitter?

BYU v Boise State
Loren Orr, Getty Images

Tweet something negative about the Boise State Broncos, their fan base or Coach Harsin? You may notice that the Broncos head coach has blocked you on Twitter and it may be unconstitutional.

The Idaho Statesman took a deeper look into why Coach Harsin has blocked certain users on Twitter.  Harsin explained that he mostly uses his Twitter account as a recruiting tool but while he’s on there he’ll see negative comments about the team.  He uses Twitter to build a positive energy around the team and its fans, so he’ll literally block out the negativity.  We all know a Twitter troll or two, so that seems fair enough. But is what Harsin’s doing unconstitutional?

The Statesman talked to a social media attorney that said he may actually be violating the first amendment by blocking out the noise.  Twitter’s not stealth at just hiding people’s accounts or making them impossible to find if you’ve been blocked.  If you try to to view the user’s tweets it will actually tell you “You’ve been blocked from seeing @usernamehere’s tweets.” It’s no big deal if you block an ex or frenemy from seeing your account, but Coach Harsin is another story.

The attorney tells the Statesman that because Coach Harsin works for Boise State, a public entity, he could be walking the line of violating First Amendment rights of the users he’s blocked.  He’s also the State of Idaho’s most well paid employee.  For those reasons banning users based on content, message or viewpoint could be considered a constitutional violation.

A representative from Boise State’s general counsel’s office told the newspaper that the lines are blurry for Harsin as his account isn’t one of the accounts considered an “official Boise State University account.”

How laws apply to social media is an ever changing and it’ll be absolutely fascinating to see how something like this plays out.

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