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Who Are San Francisco's Supervisors Blocking on Twitter?

Trolls, jingoists, and...housing advocates?


San Francisco constituents, you can rest assured that your cat pics, #TBTs, and trenchant critiques of pending legislation are getting through to (most of!) your elected officials.

Govt Access Project blogger Michael Petrelis recently sent a public records request to all 11 San Francisco supervisors asking whom they block on Twitter. Supes David Campos, Mark Farrell, Jane Kim, Aaron Peskin, Katy Tang, and Norman Yee replied that they don't block anyone (Supervisor Eric Mar has not answered yet, per Petrelis). That leaves John Avalos, Malia Cohen, and London Breed. So what Twitter users have landed on those supes' persona non grata lists?

Cohen sent in a screenshot of the three users she blocks, and none of them are particularly surprising. They include an anti-union obsessive, someone who sends racially inflammatory tweets, and some sort of swinging-couples account, which does sound irritating (or enticing, depending on how you roll). Breed responded that she would answer the request by January 29, saying that she is “conferring with another city department.” That’s probably a wise move, in this new, non-shade-throwing phase of the board president's social media career. (You will recall that she quit Twitter for a spell after raising eyebrows for some less-than-diplomatic exchanges with followers.) 

But it's Avalos who stands out as the super-blocker of the group. The progressive lawmaker's blocked list took nine screenshots to cover, coming in at a whopping 123 silenced tweeters (almost as many as the 203 he actually follows). The District 11 supe’s blocked list includes the developer-friendly San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, the pro-development activist group SFBARF, and a whole host of normal-seeming Twitter users. For instance, San Francisco State professor Jason McDaniel apparently got on Avalos's bad side after a well-barbed but civil debate about last year's proposed moratorium on market-rate construction in the Mission.

Over text, we asked Avalos about his high block count. "Blocking to me is like turning down the volume on people who heckle, mock and jeer," he texted back. "People can still follow me in many other ways, so I don't see it as having much of more an impact than someone who is blocked learning that I don't want to engage with him or her any longer." Avalos doesn't just block trolls, either—he sometimes disengages from users who keep circling around a particular topic: "I've also blocked people when I realize my earnestly tweeting back and forth with them to get my 140-character point across has become a fruitless time suck." Fair enough. London Breed has been there.

But it also seems that Avalos sometimes hits the zap button after even a single interaction, such as a lone dissenting tweet from a user who disagreed in normal, human language with his complaint about the Blue Angels "wastefully and dangerously buzzing" over S.F. "There were a lot of jingoistic, military types from all over the world who didn't like my comments," Avalos recalls. "I blocked them."

Or sometimes no interaction? Avalos blockee Rob Poole, who works at the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, expressed surprise that the supervisor blocks him—which Poole only learned when we inquired about it. "I never tweeted to John Avalos or vice versa," emails Poole. "But my profile does say I work at SFHAC."


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