President Trump’s personal Twitter account is under fire yet again, but this time it’s not for anything he’s said.
Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute sent a letter to the President on Tuesday, demanding that he “unblock the Twitter accounts of individuals denied access to his account after they criticized or disagreed with him,” and is even threatening legal action to “protect the First Amendment rights of the blocked individuals.”
The group is arguing that the President’s personal Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, is “a designated public forum,” which would be subject to the First Amendment.
“This is a context in which the Constitution precludes the President from making up his own rules,” Executive Director Jameel Jaffer said. “Though the architects of the Constitution surely didn’t contemplate presidential Twitter accounts, they understood that the President must not be allowed to banish views from public discourse simply because he finds them objectionable. Having opened this forum to all comers, the President can’t exclude people from it merely because he dislikes what they’re saying.”
Unfortunately, the Institute’s argument falls flat on its face. Trump has retained this account since March 2009, several years before he even decided to run for President. Once he assumed office, this page has remained a place where he expresses his personal views and promoted his accomplishments. Why shouldn’t he have the ability to block those users who are presumably sending him threats and other vitriol?
UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh makes an effective case for Trump in his Washington Post opinion column. Volokh notes that government officials “can act in two different capacities: on behalf of the government and expressing their own views.” Even when the President is giving a public speech, he is “understood at least in part as expressing his own views,” which is why government officials can cite religious views in their speeches under the First Amendment. Since the @realDonaldTrump account is the work of Trump-the-man (and not Trump-the-President), Volokh argues, Trump’s moderation of that account is not constrained by the First Amendment.
As a precedent, Volokh cites the Davison v. Plowman and Davison v. Loudoun County litigation, which involved the deletion of Facebook comments.
In this case, Judge James Cacheris found that when a social media page is run by an officeholder, it might not be viewed as a government project and would not be restricted by the First Amendment. Cacheris describes how, in some situations, this depends on the extent to which officeholders have involved their staffers in the maintenance of their social media account, and to what extent they have used the account “as a tool of government” rather than just “discuss[ing] matters related” to their agenda.
Based on the frequency of typos and other errors (e.g. covfefe-gate) [email protected], it seems pretty clear that President Trump retains full control over this account. The frequency of “opinion” posts on this page also suggest he is using the account to advance his agenda rather than as a “tool of government.”
Critics have so many other channels at their disposal: the White House website, the @POTUS Twitter account, and through their own social media pages, among other forums. Why should they care if they’re blocked from his personal Twitter?
Brendan Pringle is a freelance journalist in California. He is currently an opinion columnist for Guns.com and is a frequent contributor to other conservative news outlets. He is a National Journalism Center graduate and formerly served as a development officer for Young America’s Foundation at the Reagan Ranch. Follow him on Twitter @BrendanPringle.
Source: Red Alert Politics
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