Do you recall, by any chance, the story about a blogger in California who made a so-called “tyrant registry” after the Governor signed into law 6 anti-gun ownership bills? The state took him to court over it.
On February 27, the federal district court issued its ruling, over whether a California statute requiring WordPress, the platform through which the blog was published, to take down the information from the site. WordPress complied with an official order from the State, and the blogger, whose name was submitted as “Doe Publius” for his safety, had his entire entry taken down.
Here is a factual overview of the chain of events that took place, according to the official opinion (obtained via The Washington Post):
What happened was that the author of the blog “The Real Write Winger” posted the names and addresses of elected officials who voted for the gun restrictions. On the site, he published the following entry:
If you’re a gun owner in California, the government knows where you live. With
the recent anti gun, anti Liberty bills passed by the legisexuals in the State Capitol
and signed into law by our senile communist governor, isn’t it about time to register these
tyrants with gun owners?
Compiled below is the names, home addresses, and home phone numbers of all the
legislators who decided to make you a criminal if you don’t abide by their dictates.
“Isn’t that dangerous, what if something bad happens to them by making that
information public?” First, all this information was already public; it’s just now in
one convenient location. Second, it’s no more dangerous than, say, these tyrants
making it possible for free men and women to have government guns pointed at
them while they’re hauled away to jail and prosecuted for the crime of exercising
their rights and Liberty.
These tyrants are no longer going to be insulated from us. They used their power we
entrusted them with to exercise violence against us if we don’t give up our rights
and Liberty. This common sense tyrant registration addresses this public safety
hazard by giving the public the knowledge of who and where these tyrants are in
case they wish to use their power for violence again.
So below is the current tyrant registry. These are the people who voted to send you
to prison if you exercise your rights and liberties. This will be a constantly updated
list depending on future votes, and if you see a missing address or one that needs
updating, please feel free to contact me. And please share this with every California
gun owner you know.
To be fair, the only way for a tyrant to have their name removed from the tyrant
registry is to pass laws which repeal the laws that got them added to the list, or upon
the tyrant’s death. Otherwise, it is a permanent list, even after the tyrant leaves
office. The people will retain this information and have access to it indefinitely.
Legislators then alleged that they received threatening phone calls, and the Senate Sergeant at Arms then sought to issue an order which would require WordPress to remove the information. After Deputy Legislative Counsel Kathryn Londenberg sent the letter with the order on July 8, 2016, WordPress removed the site.
However, another person, all the way over in Massachusetts, got his hands on the information, and subsequently posted it to his site, Northeastshooters.com. Derek Hoskins, also a plaintiff in the case, received a response from WordPress stating that the information posted on his site was identical to something having been required to be removed.
Hoskins removed the content from his webpage.
Then, Hoskins and the author of “The Real Write Winger” brought the state of California to court over the statute under which WordPress was ordered to remove the content, stating that their free speech rights were violated.
The Court agreed, and wrote a 38 page opinion ruling in their favor.
The State argued that WordPress would have removed it even without the order, but no such evidence existed. The only evidence is that the order was issued and WordPress complied. No other facts were introduced supporting the claim that it was WordPress and not the State of California that acted.
In essence, it amounted to a censorship case, and the district court held that the petitioners’ free speech rights were violated by the State of California. The court enjoined the state from enforcing the law against the petitioners.
The State of California has until March 10 to decide how to proceed. But for now, a win for freedom of speech.