Blocking people on social media is a no-no for elected officials, no matter how frustrating some trolls can get. But that didn’t stop Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor from allegedly blocking someone on Facebook.
This time, it was one of her colleagues: Councilmember Anthony Becker.
Becker first found out about his banishment from the mayor’s page after he learned Gillmor used the city’s official seal on her mayoral page. According to city policy, the city manager must approve the use of the seal in any post beforehand—something Becker failed to do in a news release last week. When he searched her page name on his personal account, “Mayor Lisa Gillmor” came up empty.
“That right there sent up a red flag to me,” Becker told San José Spotlight. “If it wasn’t for someone telling me to look for that, I would’ve never known she was blocking me on social media.”
Becker was blocked from viewing the mayor’s “Mayor Lisa Gillmor” page on his personal Facebook, but not on Becker’s council-related page.
After San José Spotlight called Gillmor and left a voicemail message, Becker told San José Spotlight he had been unblocked and could now access Gillmor’s page.
“Go figure,” he said after learning of his unblocking. “But I am glad she complied with the rules, as am I.”
Gillmor did not reply to calls for comment.
Blocking people on social media has been a hot-button issue for politicians—both locally and across the country.
A federal court in July 2019 ruled it was unconstitutional for then-President Donald Trump to block accounts on his Twitter page, citing the First Amendment. Local politicos, including Santa Clara Councilmember Kathy Watanabe and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, reacted to the court ruling by unblocking hundreds of accounts on social media.
In Liccardo’s case, the mayor’s office turned over a list to San José Spotlight that showed 177 accounts were blocked from his official Twitter account and more than 300 users were blocked on Facebook.
Watanabe in January got caught blocking a user on Twitter, and then deleted her account.
“Many courts have held that these accounts are public forums,” David Snyder, executive director at the First Amendment Coalition, told San José Spotlight. “When a government official’s page or account constitutes as a public forum, they can’t just block any member of the public for any reason. The Trump case was really the first case to decide this issue. Before that case, there wasn’t really any law on this issue. It’s a young area of the law.”
Becker and Gillmor faced off for the mayor’s seat in 2018 and Gillmor came out victorious. That was before the city shifted from at-large council elections to district elections. Becker, along with fellow freshman Councilmembers Suds Jain and Kevin Park, won election in 2020—the first election using the city’s new district system.
The results came after calls to diversify the Santa Clara City Council, which had one person of color before 2020. Becker, Jain and Park have often opposed Gillmor and her policies, after the mayor lost her majority on the council last year.
“I think (Gillmor) needs to be held accountable for not following the rules,” Becker said. “It’s funny because every other week they seem to try to find something on me where I’m not following the rules, which I am… If they can see me, why can’t I see any of them posting anything? That says you have something to hide. Let’s provide full transparency for all.”