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Former Escondido Mayor Sam Abed has returned to the real estate sector, but according to a business associate and longtime friend, Abed never really left. File photo
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Escondido mayor sued for blocking resident on Facebook

ESCONDIDO — President Donald Trump has captured news headlines for blocking U.S. citizens on social media, generating a successful plaintiff’s lawsuit on First Amendment grounds. But social media blocking has extended far beyond the nation’s capital and into San Diego County’s government.

Escondido Mayor Sam Abed serves as the latest example of a public official in San Diego County blocking constituents in response to criticism on Facebook. In response to the blocking, Escondido resident Benjamin Martinez has filed a lawsuit against Abed on First Amendment grounds, as well, paralleling the lawsuit against President Trump.

That lawsuit was filed on Aug. 18 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, as first reported by NBC 7 San Diego.

“Members of the public who do not air their concerns about ABED and keep their criticisms to themselves are allowed to post comments on his Facebook website,” reads the complaint. “Plaintiff is not so lucky; he has been completely blocked from posting comments on ABED’s Facebook website — critical, negative, or otherwise.”

Martinez believes, as laid out in the complaint, that his First Amendment rights were infringed upon because he was denied his “rights of free expression and to criticize the government as guaranteed by the United States Constitution,” he argued in the complaint.

The lawsuit also proclaims that Martinez’s California state constitutional rights were violated. Martinez has asked to be repaid for damages suffered and attorney fees if he wins the lawsuit.

Public records requests obtained by NBC7 reveal that Abed had also previously blocked several other critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego. It was also revealed that public officials throughout San Diego County, dozens in total and a quarter of them when looked at as an aggregate group, have blocked constituents on social media. Those include several city officials within The Coast News’ North County coverage area.  

For example, Oceanside City Councilwoman Esther Sanchez blocked two accounts on Facebook. In Vista, City Councilman Joe Green has blocked at eight different accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

And in Encinitas, Mayor Catherine Blakespear has blocked four different people on her personal Facebook account. Encinitas Councilmember Tony Kranz said that he only blocked “trolls and “haters” on Facebook and Twitter, but had restored access to those individuals after a public records request was filed, according to NBC7.  

“Sadly, the number of thin-skinned politicians in this county appears to be growing,” Martinez’s attorney Cory Briggs previously told NBC7. “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.”

Beyond legal implications, Briggs said that blocking on social media has an impact on the quality of back-and-forth civic discourse, as well.

“Politicians come up with excuses for not having to listen to people who disagree with them,” Briggs stated previously. “And that’s one of the problems our country faces right now is you can’t get adults to sit down and talk civilly when they disagree.”

Briggs is also representing plaintiffs in two other similar lawsuits filed elsewhere in San Diego County.

Mayor Abed did not respond to a request for comment for this story.


Paul Coshow August 31, 2018 at 10:37 pm

If he cared about the will of the people he wouldn’t block them on social media, or virtually ignore what they vote for, and pass, like his prohibited access to medical marijuana agenda through code enforcement, and police actions, let alone the recreational kind. I hope we get a mayor soon who respects the rights, and will of the people.

Paul Coshow August 31, 2018 at 10:29 pm

Sam Abed doesn’t care about patients who need a local source for their medical needs.
Ask any cannabis patient.
He also does not care about the will of the people of the great State of California, who voted to legalize cannabis and instead chooses to circumvent the law with city code enforcement actions against law abiding citizens who meet the legal definition of cannabis patient.
I’m sure it’s not helping the economic situation at all either, since that resource of income and revenue is not allowed by the current Mayor of Escondido. So please consider that at the polls. Thanks

Mark Watson August 29, 2018 at 8:08 pm

For what it’s worth, I support Mayor Abed. I know him to be a principled man, a wise leader, and a genuine steward of his Office. Ask yourself; would you want some malcontent spouting vitriol on your social media page?

If Mr. Martinez seeks platforms and venues for his hatred, I suggest that there are plenty. That he cannot vent – specifically on Sam Abed’s non-governmental social media page – indicates, at least to me, that he (Mr. Martinez) was/is trying to orchestrate and fabricate his own case.

Mr. Martinez, if you feel so strongly about the issues, why not post them on YOUR social media page(s)? Your scurrilous actions belie your low motives.

SoCal Baker August 29, 2018 at 4:45 pm

The liberals in Escondido are really unhinged, really a personal Facebook page is expected to allow all responses to be published? The liberals are really crazy and have a very different view of reality than any other person.

Ray Carney August 29, 2018 at 11:16 am

Sounds like another SLAP suit to me but he Martinez clains his right to free speech has been violated, tell that to conservatives on social media. Best rule, folks, ditch all social media, nobody has thatuch to say in the first place. Just more liberal nonsense, a non story and lawsuit.

Comments are closed.