Santa Clara Official Deletes Twitter Account After Blocked User Raises Questions

Santa Clara Councilwoman Kathy Watanabe got caught this month blocking a Twitter user on her now-deleted public social media account and then opted to get rid of the profile rather than answer questions about it.

In a Jan. 13 tweet, a Twitter user identifying himself as David Cohen (no known relation to the newly-elected San Jose councilman) claimed Watanabe blocked him on Twitter, offering a screenshot as proof.

(Source: Twitter)

But precedent frowns on that after a federal appeals court in 2019 upheld a ruling that now-former President Donald Trump couldn’t block his critics on social media. The same goes for local officials, if the account is used to disseminate public information or conduct government business, according to David Snyder, executive director for the First Amendment Coalition.

Watanabe's account had been sharing city-related news.

“Courts have been pretty clear that creates a public forum, and public officials therefore cannot discriminate on who gets to participate in that forum based on the person's viewpoint,” he said.

There may be some narrow exceptions to the no-blocking rule, as long as the same standards are applied to every follower and not because the Twitter user doesn't agree with the politician, Snyder added.

But when asked why she blocked Cohen, Watanabe demurred, stating she “deleted [her] public account and just [has] a personal account.”

As of Monday afternoon, the account in question, @KWatanabeDist1—which prominently identified her as the city’s District 1 council member in the name and bio—was active and showed the councilwoman had last tweeted Jan. 6. Her recent tweets were all related to Santa Clara business.

Watanabe also appears to have a second private Twitter account, which does not identify her as a council member.

When asked again about the account that blocked Cohen, Watanabe dodged the question, insisted she had no public account at all.

Eventually, she deleted the profile.

The city’s new flack, Lon Peterson, peddled similar misinformation the following day, characterizing the account as a personal one.

When asked, Peterson added that Watanabe “terminated” it after she reported “a person who did not appear to be following Twitter’s rules and terms of service.”

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16 Comments

  1. Watanabe is the world’s biggest liar. Talk about social media, her husband once called for city council members to be shot. She is a mean spirited hack with a lot of emotional issues.

  2. Talk about bizarro world!

    Political figures cannot block people but Twitter can remove people based on whatever whim they choose.

    Did Beau write this?

  3. Watanabe berates people of color all the time. She has a real issue with South Asians. While blistering the 49ers, Watanabe musses committee meetings to attend games taking Facebook shots of herself drinking beer (5 a game) and chomping on brautwurdt while attacking Latinos going to soccer games.

  4. > But precedent frowns on that after a federal appeals court in 2019 upheld a ruling that now-former President Donald Trump couldn’t block his critics on social media.

    Who says President Trump never accomplished anything.

    This is a great victory for free speech and free and open debate.

    Now if we could just get Twitter to stop blocking Trump’s account and the accounts of MILLIONS of twitter users who used hashtags like “#StoptheSteal” or visited forbidden blogs like QAnon.

  5. Speaking of Twitter, from Jack Dorsey’s personal social media fiefdom:

    https://twitter.com/Yamiche/status/1352267516761014273?s=20

    “Confirmed these themes of Biden administration’s agenda:

    January 21 – COVID
    January 22 – Economic Relief
    January 25 – Buy America
    January 26 – Equity
    January 27 – Climate
    January 28 – Health Care
    January 29 – Immigration
    February – Restoring America’s Place in the World”

    Buy America?

    Do the ChiComs know about this?

    Biden probably doesn’t mean for Americans to buy American products.

    It’s probably Xi Jinping’s shopping list.

  6. Flack? Maybe Hack is a better term.

    When did the job of a “Director of Communications Lon Peterson, 408-615-5522” become to peddle lies and insult city residents they don’t like.

    Is this how the City of Santa Clara is going to work with residents – insult them?

    Hey Fly – maybe you should ask Lon Patterson, what did I do that didn’t “appear to be following Twitter’s rules and terms of service”? I’d send him a DM on twitter but he doesn’t appear to be on Twitter. And is insulting residents City policy – approved by the City Manager, Mayor or Council?

    When asked, Peterson added that Watanabe “terminated” it after she reported “a person who did not appear to be following Twitter’s rules and terms of service.”

  7. Remember Watababe worked for a law firm that had many conflicts. She supports a racist Proud Boy blogger who raised many from people caught using the N word freely. Watanabe has many supporters with QAnon connections including a contributor to Boeber.

  8. Watanabe and Gillmor have both blocked me on Facebook – happy to talk to anyone at the Fly about it – I was told that public figures could not do that but I guess they aren’t that public. Oh and I’m just a citizen of Santa Clara not a journalist haha

  9. Hi Not So Public,
    The person who was blocked in this story is also not a journalist. We featured the story because of the ruling in 2019 and because rather than explain what prompted the block, the councilmember claimed the account didn’t exist anymore when it was clearly still active.
    I personally did a records request last year to see if any Santa Clara councilmembers had blocked anyone on social media, including Facebook, and at that time none had because of this ruling. You are claiming that has changed, which is news to me. There are some narrow reasons a public official can block a person on a social media account where they share information related to their work as a public official, but if you feel you’ve been blocked unfairly, I’m happy to chat about that and look into it to understand what happened.

  10. Blocking people on social media is merely a symptom. The cause is the complete arrogance of our political class. I don’t use social media. If I have something to say to one of our elected or appointed leaders, I write them a letter. They “block “ written communications as well. They simply don’t even acknowledge your letter.

    Different approach, same result.

  11. I appreciate your coverage. Sadly, I got no response from the City of Santa Clara. I know they monitor twitter, but to simply not respond to me, but make false accusations seems a bit egregious and irresponsible. I hate to think this is now the “Santa Clara Way.”

  12. Public officials not responding to letters that they don’t like isn’t new but an “old Santa Clara way”.

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