Not true, although I share her basic mystification at the idea that a Twitter block somehow might implicate the First Amendment in the year of our lord 2019.
Consider this another of the many ways in which she and Trump are alike. He too went to court recently claiming that he had every right to send the trolls populating his Twitter replies packing via the block feature. Twitter is a private entity, is it not? The blocked trolls can still see Trump’s tweets by logging out of their accounts and viewing his publicly available Twitter account homepage, can they not? Well, then, how the hell are anyone’s First Amendment rights being violated by blocking them?
He made that case to the Second Circuit — and lost, just last month. AOC will lose too if she’s stupid or stubborn enough to force a lawsuit about it.
This dispute started with a letter sent to her by Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute, the same outfit that beat Trump in court. Maybe you haven’t heard, said the Institute, but it’s now the law that politicians who use their Twitter accounts to engage extensively on official/policy matters are operating a “public forum.” And public forums are covered by the First Amendment, which means you’re not allowed to discriminate against people based on their viewpoint. No blocking allowed.
Until now, Ocasio-Cortez’s pitifully lame defense has been that the AOC Twitter account which five million people follow isn’t her “official” account. The official account is RepAOC — which has all of 188,000 followers or so and is updated infrequently. That’s the public forum, she claims. The AOC account she uses every day for political matters various and sundry is a personal account and therefore shouldn’t be subject to First Amendment restrictions. Trump made the same argument to the Second Circuit, though, and they laughed him off. Right, he has an official POTUS Twitter account in addition to the realDonaldTrump account that the entire world reads, but he can’t duck the reality that he’s running a public forum on his main account simply by designating some other, less newsworthy account his official one. We have to look at how an account is being used to decide if it’s a public forum, said the Second Circuit:
Virtually all of that is true for Ocasio-Cortez and her AOC account. She operates it personally, her staff has claimed, and her Twitter bio makes clear that it belongs to a federal legislator: “Congresswoman for NY-14 (the Bronx & Queens).” The account is her main conduit for communicating with the public about congressional business, including votes on particular bills. And she too uses “likes” and “retweets” copiously to signal agreement with the political opinions of others. The only potentially meaningful difference between Trump’s account and hers is that his staff have acknowledged that he conducts “official” business from the account, but that difference may be due more to a distinction in their offices than in how they’re using the platform. Trump can act unilaterally as executive; Ocasio-Cortez, a legislator, can’t. But by using her account to build public support for and against specific bills, she’s also performing a quasi-official duty of her job through her account.
Bottom line: She’s going to lose in court if this ends up there and anyone who’s read the Second Circuit opinion would know that. So … why is she insisting on fighting the Knight Institute on this?
1. I have 5.2 million followers. Less than 20 accounts are blocked for ongoing harassment. 0 are my constituents.
2. Harassment is not a viewpoint. Some accounts, like the Daily Caller, posted fake nude photos of me & abused my comments to spread it. No one is entitled to abuse. https://t.co/0QWKqJFzRe
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 29, 2019
People are free to speak whatever classist, racist, false, misogynistic, bigoted comments they’d like.
They do not have the right to force others to endure their harassment and abuse. ✌🏽
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 29, 2019
The idea that “harassment is not a viewpoint” for First Amendment purposes is reminiscent of some progressives’ mistaken belief that “hate speech isn’t free speech.” Extreme forms of harassment, like true threats, aren’t protected speech. Petty forms, like tweeting at AOC that she’s a dimwitted commie symp, are. “Harassment” is a bro-o-ad term; doubtless Trump would dub every unflattering comment about him as “harassment” if he thought he could use that as a First Amendment workaround. If Ocasio-Cortez believes that certain nasty tweets at her rise to the level of criminal harassment, she should report them to the FBI. Otherwise, what’s left to say?
The punchline here is that if you know anything about Twitter you know that AOC can easily achieve her goal of tuning out trolls without blocking anyone. That’s what the “mute” function is for. Simply by muting instead of blocking, she can instantly exclude all tweets from a trollish user from her “replies” column while ensuring that that user can continue to see and interact with her own tweets, which is what the Second Circuit was worried about in Trump’s case. She’s supposed to be the most savvy social-media user in all of government. How is it that she doesn’t understand that this simple solution is available to her? Any casual Twitter user would know.