Sunday, May 27, 2018 by Jayson Veley
In a move that surprised both Trump supporters and anti-Trump activists alike, a federal judge ruled this week that President Trump can’t legally block Twitter users from viewing his feed on the basis that it is a “designated public forum” and therefore protected by the First Amendment.
The judgement comes nearly a year after a group of Trump critics filed a lawsuit, alleging that the President had violated their First Amendment rights by blocking them from reading his tweets. “The @realDonaldTrump account is a kind of digital town hall in which the president and his aides use the tweet function to communicate news and information to the public, and members of the public use the reply function to respond to the president and his aides and exchange views with one another,” the lawsuit said.
A team of lawyers from the Justice Department jumped to Donald Trump’s defense, arguing that he had every right to block certain users in the same way that he is allowed to ignore certain individuals when addressing a crowd of people or reporters. However, Manhattan Federal Court Judge Naomi Buchwald disagreed, arguing that the exclusion of certain clients on a public forum was in violation of the First Amendment.
Many conservatives and Trump supporters were taken back by the decision, and for good reason. On the surface, it seems as though it’s the president’s rights that are being violated and not the rights of his Twitter followers, because he is essentially being told that he is not allowed to determine who he wants to allow on his own personal Twitter feed.
It’s not all bad, though. As a matter of fact, Chris Menahan of Information Liberation recently argued that Judge Buchwald’s ruling could actually turn out to be a tremendous victory for conservatives.
“While liberals are cheering this ruling thinking they pulled one over on ‘Drumpf,” ruling these heavily censored social media sites are designated public forums and must respect the First Amendment is what everyone on the right with a brain has been pushing for for months,” he wrote. (Related: Anti-conservative censorship spreads from campuses to Google and other oppressive tech giants.)
Menahan is exactly correct – conservatives want nothing more than to be allowed to post content on their social media accounts without being harassed or censored in any way. Now that Judge Buchwald ruled that Twitter is a public forum and the First Amendment must be respected, it means that conservatives that have been targeted on social media can take legal action and site judicial precedence to ultimately save their free speech rights on the Internet.
If this is in fact the solution that conservatives have been fighting for, then it has certainly come at the right time. According to a comprehensive report released by the Media Research Center last month, the censorship of conservative content by Internet giants like Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube is far more serious than many people even realize.
“War is being declared on the conservative movement in this space and conservatives are losing – badly,” says the report’s executive summary, adding that if right wing content is censored on the Internet, billions of people will be prohibited from accessing conservative ideas, opinions and viewpoints. (Related: Legislation has been proposed that would force Facebook and Twitter to stop censoring conservatives.)
The report also found that all four websites – Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – actively, and at times intentionally, hide conservative content from users, which is obviously a clear violation of the First Amendment. Hopefully, this ruling will reverse this trend and allow conservatives to speak their minds on social media, regardless of how “controversial” or “factually accurate” that speech might be.