PG understands that the following may have little to do with writing and books, but this case raises an interesting point about the use or misuse of social media, which is of increasing importance to authors.
A U.S. judge in New York on Wednesday ruled that President Donald Trump may not legally block Twitter users from his account on the social media platform based on their political views.
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Trump has made his @RealDonaldTrump Twitter account an integral and controversial part of his presidency, using it to promote his agenda, announce policy and attack critics. He has blocked many critics from his account, which prevents them from directly responding to his tweets.
U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan ruled that comments on the president’s account, and those of other government officials, were public forums, and that blocking Twitter users for their views violated their right to free speech under the First Amendment of Constitution.
Eugene Volokh, a University of California Los Angeles School of Law professor who specializes in First Amendment issues, said the decision’s effect would reach beyond Trump.
“It would end up applying to a wide range of government officials throughout the country,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Justice, which represents Trump in the case, said, “We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision and are considering our next steps.”
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The individual plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Philip Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland; Holly Figueroa, described in the complaint as a political organizer and songwriter in Washington state; and Brandon Neely, a Texas police officer.
Novelists Stephen King and Anne Rice, comedian Rosie O’Donnell, model Chrissy Teigen, actress Marina Sirtis and the military veterans political action committee VoteVets.org are among those who have said on Twitter that Trump blocked them.
Link to the rest at Reuters
PG thinks this decision will be reversed on appeal.
Just as the President is not required to permit everyone who wishes to attend a White House dinner or a political rally to come to such events, he is not required to provide an electronic place at his Twitter table for those he does not wish to attend.
Twitter isn’t a public forum because it’s owned and controlled by Twitter, not the government. Twitter can ban anyone for any reason and has done so on a political basis for some former Twitter members who have posted political opinions Twitter doesn’t like.
Twitter could deactivate Trump’s account if it wanted to do so. Twitter could likewise prevent selected users from making posts on the Trump account if Twitter decided that was a good idea. Or Twitter could prevent the President from using the Twitter block feature. It’s Twitter’s online space and it can set the rules.
In this case, however, a federal judge is trying to control how the President uses Twitter. That’s an exercise of government power by the judicial branch to control who President Trump invites to his digital White House. Under the First Amendment, is the President prohibited from using a Twitter feature that 99.99999% of the rest of the users of Twitter, including ten-year-old children, are free to use without any government constraint?
Every place in which government officials desire to speak is not automatically turned into a public forum in which anyone is permitted to speak. A public park is traditionally used as a prototypical example of a public forum. In a park, anyone can start speaking and gather a crowd to listen to whatever ideas the speaker wishes to express. Others can verbally dispute what the initial speaker is expressing.
PG suggests that Twitter does not qualify as a public forum because Twitter controls access and, as part of Twitter’s control, it permits the owner of a Twitter account to block the expressions of third parties that appear on the account.
Presumably, the President created his Twitter account for the purpose of communicating his ideas in the manner he chose. The opinion in the OP essentially says that the President is not permitted to communicate electronically in the manner he chooses. An unremitting and uncontrollable wave of hostile posts would have the effect of preventing the President from such effective communication of his ideas, effectively drowning out the President’s messages with a deluge of calculated electronic assaults (which, presumably could even be automated from a variety of Twitter accounts created for that purpose).