This seemed like one of the crazier complaints I’ve heard in a season of seemingly endless whining, but it’s showing up in so many media outlets that it’s become “a thing” now. There is apparently a move underway to stop the President of the United States from blocking any trolls on Twitter who become pests. The reason? It’s a violation of your First Amendment rights… or something. (LA Times)
There may be no better window into President Trump’s mind than his prolific Twitter feed — an unvarnished digital log of what’s piquing the leader of the free world in real time.
But when Trump blocks critics from reading and replying to his tweets, it violates protections guaranteed under the 1st Amendment, say free speech attorneys.
In a letter to the White House on Tuesday, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University called on the president to stop blocking users, arguing that the @realDonaldTrump handle with its nearly 32 million followers amounts to a “designated public forum” that all Americans should have access to — even opponents.
The main complainers in this case are, first, user Holly O’Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan) who was blocked after this gem of a tweet.
— Holly Figueroa O'Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan) May 28, 2017
The second was Joseph M. Papp (@joepabike) who may or may not have been blocked for this one.
Greetings from Pittsburgh, Sir.
— Joe Papp (@joepabike) June 3, 2017
I don’t have a ton to say about this, but seriously… how is this a First Amendment issue? Nobody is restricting the rights of the account owners to Tweet or to speak in any other fashion. They can still blast the President from their social media accounts all they like. The only question here is whether or not the President will wind up seeing it. Even if they’re not blocked, do you have any idea how many hits his mention column must take on a daily basis? (Heck, I probably account for a dozen or so of them myself.)
Would these same users argue that if the POTUS doesn’t personally read and respond to every snail mail letter sent to the White House that the rights of the authors of those letters are being violated? What are you going to sue over next… that he didn’t accept your friend request on Facebook?
Having vented all of that frustration, one can almost see the side of the argument which focuses not on whether or not the President must be subjected to your tweets, but whether or not you have the chance to see his. Everyone should have the chance to take in that information if they wish, just in the interest of transparency. But that’s not a free speech issue. That’s an access issue and doesn’t fall under any sort of constitutional protection as far as I can tell. But if the President really wants to fix this without a fight (not likely, knowing his love of a good battle) this entire issue would go away if he’d start using the mute feature rather than blocking people. Just a thought.