Last week federal judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that President Donald Trump cannot block people from his Twitter account, saying that the account constituted a public forum, and thus is protected by the First Amendment.
Judge Buchwald, a Clinton appointee, said, “The blocking of the individual plaintiffs from the @realDonaldTrump account because of their expressed political views violates the First Amendment.”
The purpose of this ruling is to prevent Trump from blocking leftists who harass him in the replies to his tweets. The tweets are viewable by anyone, including those without a Twitter account, so the ruling (and the judge specifically mentioned this) is intended to force Trump to allow people of every political persuasion to join the conversation beneath his tweets, so long as they do not break the law. What the leftists celebrating this ruling might not realize is that this sets a broader precedent for Twitter and other social media platforms in terms of censorship and the First Amendment.
If Trump’s Twitter account constitutes a public forum, then logically Twitter itself is a public forum. You cannot claim that an individual account on twitter constitutes a public space, while simultaneously claiming the website at large is not subject to the First Amendment as a private company. Twitter has used this interpretation of the law to ban thousands of accounts based on their political views.
However, following the reasoning of this ruling, if Trump can’t block someone from interacting with and viewing his tweets, then Twitter can’t either. By banning accounts based on their political views, Twitter is preventing people from participating in the public forum, and thus denying them First Amendment rights.
What the left would like to see out of this ruling is this: Trump can’t block any leftists who harass him and say whatever they want, but right-wing accounts will be barred from the site altogether. This is untenable. Because of this ruling, Twitter will now come under extreme scrutiny. It has now been charged by a federal judge with the burden of being the public square. The arguments for people banned, not for committing a crime, but their political views (Jared Taylor, et al), write themselves.
In the 21st century the internet and its major media monopolies (Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube) are the virtual public square. These websites’ ability to act as private spaces and ban entire segments of the population has gone on far too long. It is time for the US government to address this issue. This ruling is an important step toward forcing Twitter and other internet giants to uphold the First Amendment rights of their users.