Free-speech debate swirls as officials block on social media

FILE- In this July 12, 2017, file photo, Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. An emerging

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — An emerging debate about whether elected officials violate people's free speech rights by blocking them on social media is spreading across the U.S. as groups sue or warn politicians to stop the practice.

The American Civil Liberties Union this week sued Maine Gov. Paul LePage and sent warning letters to Utah's congressional delegation. It followed recent lawsuits against the governors of Maryland and Kentucky and President Donald Trump.

Trump's use of Twitter and allegations he blocks people with dissenting views has raised questions about what elected officials can and cannot do on their social media pages.

Politicians at all levels increasingly embrace social media to discuss government business, sometimes at the expense of traditional town halls or in-person meetings.

Most officials say they're policing social media to get rid of people who post abusive messages.