Can the President Block You on Twitter? [POLICYbrief]
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Can the President Block You on Twitter? [POLICYbrief]


With President Trump, there’s a tweet for
everything. For the last seven or eight years, he has
been tweeting on every conceivable issue that confronts us. This was not much of an issue before he was
a politician. As a private citizen, he could say whatever
he wants on Twitter and he can block whomever he wants, and it really creates no problems. However, if official capacity Trump, the president
of the United States on a government account, blocks people, that does implicate the First
Amendment and that’s the basis of the lawsuit being litigated now in New York. The seven plaintiffs in the litigation claim
that they were blocked by President Trump on Twitter. These are everyday people. They’re lawyers, activists, thinkers, writers. They come from different walks of life and
they all share one thing in common: They said something that President Trump didn’t like
and President Trump retaliated by blocking them on Twitter. These people filed a lawsuit in federal court
in Manhattan and they argued that the president was violating their First Amendment rights
by blocking them on Twitter. Our First Amendment case law teaches the government
can’t pick winners and losers. They can’t say, “A-ha! Speech we agree with, we’ll let you in. But speech we disagree with, you guys have
to be quiet.” We have to let everyone speak and only the
best ideas will prevail. That’s the basis of how our free speech system
operates. A public forum is a place where the government
allows people to generally speak. The classic example is a sidewalk. If I want to walk down a sidewalk and I want
to hand out pamphlets complaining about some government policy, or I want to walk down
the sidewalk and hold up a sign saying stop this or stop that, I don’t need a permit. I don’t need to ask the government’s permission,
and the government can’t tell me not to do it. So, sidewalk’s easy. The big question that’s considered here is,
what kind of forum is Twitter? The federal district court in Manhattan ruled
against President Trump and the court of New York held that this was something of a public
forum. The court reasoned that President Trump used
his Twitter account as a conduit of government information, used it to announce government
business, his staffer had access to it. It wasn’t just a private account, it was an
official account, and once you have this sort of public forum, the president can’t exclude
people on the basis of their viewpoint. I think the best arguments in favor of the
plaintiff is that they were blocked from this public forum, uh, because of their viewpoints,
and that constitutes viewpoint discrimination. Trump’s best argument is that district courts
can’t tell the president how to do their job, that it’s up to the president to decide how
best to manage his administration, and that district courts should not be micromanaging
these things about how he manages his Twitter account. I think the ruling has fairly widespread implications. All government actors -not just politicians-
but mayors, sheriffs, universities, public state universities, uh, will now have to keep
their social media policies open. This is the first time a president has been
sued for his use of social media in any capacity whatsoever. This is fairly novel ground we’re breaking.

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  • GANTZ100pts

    So if trump cant block people, then why can people like AOC block as many as she wants? double standard much?

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