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Should A Canadian Politician Be Able To Block You On Twitter?

The hashtag #BlockedByRempel was trending across Canada Sunday night.
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel speaks following the tabling of the 2019 Spring Reports of the Auditor General in Ottawa on May 7, 2019.
Sean Kilpatrick/ The Canadian Press
Conservative MP Michelle Rempel speaks following the tabling of the 2019 Spring Reports of the Auditor General in Ottawa on May 7, 2019.

There are few things more satisfying than blocking someone on social media. With one click, you can disappear from the feed of your ex, your enemy or your troll.

But should a politician be able to block their constituents?

That’s a question that has once again come up in relation to Conservative Member of Parliament for Calgary Nose Hill Michelle Rempel.

The hashtag #BlockedByRempel was trending first in Calgary and then across Canada Sunday night, as users tweeted about being blocked by Rempel.

One user even teased making t-shirts for the “blocked by Rempel” club.

This is not the first time Rempel has drawn attention for blocking users on social media. The MP made headlines last year for blocking an Indigenous youth who criticized her stance on immigration.

The latest string of blockings appears to have come in response to a tweet rempel sent out about her American husband’s thoughts on Canadian regulations.

Maggie, who lives in Alberta and tweets under @CailinasEirinn, says she was “deeply offended” by Rempel’s Tweet and said so. She says Rempel blocked her within minutes.

“For someone to say something like that on Twitter, about this country, particularly an elected MP, I was deeply offended by her,” Maggie told HuffPost. “So I told her to crawl back under her rock. And that was it. And I was blocked.”

Maggie said she thinks Rempel and other politicians shouldn’t be so swift to block regular people like her.

“Sure, if somebody is hateful or misogynistic or is threatening — go ahead and block. I have no problem with that,” she said. But they need to leave the lines open to hear from Canadians.”

It’s not certain how many people Rempel has blocked in total from her personal Twitter account, though former Ontario Premier Bob Rae is apparently not one of them.

WATCH: Court rules Trump can’t block critics on Twitter. Story continues below.

To block or not to block

The question of whether or not politicians can block regular folks has been hotly contested in recent years.

Earlier this month, a U,S. federal appeals court ruled that President Donald Trump could not block his critics on Twitter. The court ruled that Trump’s Twitter account is a “public forum” where citizens have a right to engage with his comments.

No clear legal precedent exists in Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has issued guidance to his party’s ministers regarding their social media accounts, but no official policy exists in the House of Commons regarding MPs blocking or deleting constituents from social media.

In November 2018, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson reached a settlement with three users who sued him for blocking them on Twitter. Watson conceded that his account was a public forum, and agreed to unblock the three users as well as all other individuals he had blocked.

Rempel responds

In an emailed statement to HuffPost, Rempel’s constituency office said that her Twitter account is publicly accessible to anyone via Google search.

“MP Rempel is one of the most accessible politicians in Canada, with significant presences on virtually every social media platform,” the statement read.

In the statement, the office also said Rempel developed a social media policy after an Ontario man was convicted of harassing her online. At least half a dozen accounts attached to him were removed from Twitter.

The social media policy is comprised of a flowchart showing scenarios that could lead to blocking a user. These include:

  • Have you blocked me?
  • Does your tweet insult vs. engage/use misogynistic, foul or abusive language?
  • Have you tweeted, retweeted or liked tweets which insult vs. engage/use misogynistic, foul or abusive language directed at me?
  • Do you frequently subtweet me in a hateful or abusive manner?
  • Have you tweeted at me in a manner that’s designed to spam my notification feed?
  • Does your avatar, profile pic or profile description largely contain content that is insulting/hateful/abusive/violent/misogynistic?
  • Is your Twitter content feed largely comprised of content that is insulting/hateful/abusive/violent/misogynistic?

Rempel’s office said all the Twitter accounts were blocked based on this criteria.

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