It’s no secret how much President Trump loves taking his message directly to the public through his Twitter account. Recently, Trump’s account has started to block people who express opposition to his tweets. By blocking these people, it prohibits them from reading and responding to tweets from Trump’s account.
Do you have a right to see the president’s tweets? There is currently a legal battle pending as to whether it is a violation of the First Amendment for Trump to continue to block people from seeing his tweets.
Is Twitter a Public Forum?
The central question in this case is whether the president’s Twitter account is a “designated public forum.” Under the First Amendment, a designated public forum is a forum that is set aside by the government for the purpose of free expression. In such a forum, the government may only place limits on the time, place, and manner in which the speech is made, but cannot censor the content of speech without a compelling interest.
The Knight First Amendment Foundation is arguing that the president’s Twitter account is a designated public forum and blocking people from this forum is a violation of their First Amendment rights. The foundation is stating that since the president of the United States controls the account, the government therefore operates it for the purposes of public expression. By blocking access to the account to people who are critical of him, Trump is censoring the free speech rights of those who disagree with him, according to the Knight First Amendment Foundation.
The argument has some weaknesses. First, like other social media services, Twitter is a privately owned and operated service that allows anyone to sign up for an account and use it for free. Also like other social media services, users must agree to Twitter’s terms of service before they can use the site, which means that Twitter reserves the right to deactivate accounts that violate those terms. Thus, President Trump’s legal team could argue that Twitter is a private forum in which the president is but one of millions of participants, and therefore the content can be regulated. Continue reading →