The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland is suing Gov. Larry Hogan, alleging he unconstitutionally censored his critics on Facebook.
Claims state Hogan's administration blocked some Facebook users and deleted their comments from his official page, violating the First Amendment.
"The highest purpose of the First Amendment is to protect the right of Americans to engage in political speech and to petition the government to address their concerns," Deborah Jeon, the ACLU of Maryland's legal director, said in a statement. "It violates both the First Amendment and Maryland's own social media guidelines for government officials to block out any voices of dissent or those simply raising questions about positions taken by public officials sworn to serve."
The group seeks a permanent injunction — which could order a person or group to permanently refrain from a certain action — against the governor's policy.
Meredith Phillips, a Columbia resident, said in a statement that she identifies as a Democrat but cast her vote for Hogan. She posted on Hogan's official Facebook page about Trump's travel ban and asked him to make a public statement, she said.
Her comment was deleted, and she was blocked from the page, she said.
"From the moment it happened, I couldn't believe Governor Hogan would block people who disagreed with him, but who weren't rude or threatening," she said in the statement. "Deleting any comment from constituents that doesn't praise or agree with Governor Hogan is a violation of free speech."
Hogan was criticized in February after members of his staff deleted some constituents' Facebook comments asking him to condemn President Trump for issuing a travel ban for people from seven Muslim-majority countries, The Baltimore Sun reported. The users were banned from posting on Hogan's page, and the comments were marked as "spam."
The ACLU wrote to Hogan later that month on behalf of seven Marylanders who faced censorship by Hogan or his staff, according to the statement. Aides unblocked some of the banned users, but some say they were blocked again for later posts, the statement continued.
Trump faced a similar lawsuit in July, when members of Columbia University's Knight First Amendment Institute claimed the president blocked some of his critics on Twitter. The @realDonaldTrump Twitter account is a public forum, the suit argues.
Last week, a federal judge ruled an elected Virginia official couldn't block users from her Facebook page, as she "engaged in viewpoint discrimination" and violated the First Amendment by banning her constituent for a critical post.