Should Politicians Be Able to Block Critics on Twitter?
A US Appeals Court affirmed a lower court’s ruling that it is unconstitutional for Trump to block critics on Twitter. The ruling cements the status of the presidential Twitter account as an “official” presidential platform. Does this mean AOC will also have to stop blocking trolls on Twitter?
Trump’s Twitter account isn’t his private property or a government-controlled space. It’s something else: property controlled by Twitter Inc. Consider that neither Trump nor anyone else has free reign to say absolutely anything on a Twitter feed. Twitter has rules for content moderation — and those trump even Trump.
The idea that Trump’s motive in tweeting is to provide a forum for a robust exchange of ideas is the legal fiction to end all legal fictions. And even if @realDonaldTrump is classified as an official presidential platform, the Supreme Court has held that “government speech” doesn’t create a public forum. Otherwise Trump’s critics would be entitled to equal time at his news conferences.
He routinely announces personnel and policy decisions there. And he does it not only with his own two plump thumbs, but with aid of on-the-clock government staffers. As such, the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals rightly ruled, Trump can’t willy-nilly block Twitter users who disagree with him.
When an individual is blocked, as one member of this Editorial Board is, he can’t even see the president’s tweets, short of going through frustrating workarounds.