May 24, 2018

Trolling Judge Blocks Trump From Blocking Twitter Trolls

She declares that Trump’s blocking of critics on his private account violates the First Amendment.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled on Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s practice of blocking trolls and critics from his Twitter feed is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment. In her 75-page opinion, Buchwald declared that since Trump had become president, his private Twitter account could no longer be deemed private but was now a “designated public forum,” and therefore “the blocking of the individual plaintiffs as a result of the political views they have expressed is impermissible under the First Amendment.”

There are obviously several problems with this ruling, one of which is the effective reclassification of Twitter from a privately controlled company to government-run utility. Does the judge’s ruling comport with Twitter’s user agreement? Not in the least. Buchwald has unilaterally taken away control of a social media company’s forum and turned it over to the government. National Review’s David French explains, “Using Twitter isn’t like renting out a concert hall or reserving space in a public park. Twitter is in command, not Trump, and to the extent that Trump does anything, he does so only with Twitter’s permission. Twitter can alter his account — and his account alone — in its sole discretion and according to its corporate whims. ‘Control’ is simply not a word that applies to anyone’s Twitter account. Twitter’s terms of service are so sweeping, that even Trump’s speech isn’t solely Trump’s speech any longer. Twitter can use his words at will.”

Declan McCullagh of Reason notes, “The judge’s logic turns the traditional way of viewing the First Amendment on its head: Your right to free speech doesn’t extend to a right to make someone else, even a politician you have good reason to loathe, listen to you. The Supreme Court expanded on this in a 1984 case, ruling that a ‘person’s right to speak is not infringed when government simply ignores that person while listening to others.’” The First Amendment prevents the government from silencing the speech of individuals. It does not obligate Trump to listen to anyone.

Finally, Trump’s blocking certain Twitter followers from his personal account — an account he set up eight years before becoming president — does not preclude those individuals from following his feed outside of their personal accounts. It simply makes it more inconvenient for them and prevents them from posting their comments to his account.

Trump has yet to tweet a response, but we’re betting it’ll be entertaining.

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