Donald Trump’s Twitter account manages to create controversy even when he’s not tweeting. Over the last few weeks, many legal academics have accused the President of violating the First Amendment by blocking some critics from posting on @realDonaldTrump’s timeline. Their argument and a recent Supreme Court decision on free speech and social media create an even stronger case that all government accounts on social media with companies with discriminatory speech codes are unconstitutional.
Earlier this month, attorneys with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University wrote to the president on behalf of two Twitter users who were blocked by Trump’s account. They argued the account is a “designated public forum” for citizens to respond to the President. Knight Institute director Jameel Jaffer explained, “Having opened this forum to all comers, the president can’t exclude people from it merely because he dislikes what they’re saying.”
Last week, The Supreme Court unanimously invalidated a state law barring registered sex offenders from social media in Packingham v. North Carolina. The case strengthens the concept that social media is a “public forum.” Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion noted that a “fundamental principle of the First Amendment is that all persons have access to places where they can speak and listen.” He described "social media in particular" as one of the most "important places" for Americans to express these rights. His opinion emphasizes how citizens can interact with their public officials on social media, noting “on Twitter, users can petition their elected representatives and otherwise engage with them in a direct manner.”
In fact, The U.S. General Services Administration advises government agencies to hold “Twitter Townhalls” where “agencies invite public engagement for a scheduled time period during which users can ask questions or find out more information about a topic via Twitter.” Lower courts have already ruled that government run social media accounts cannot censor comments.
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