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The President No Longer Allowed to Block Twitter Users - Look For A Ripple Effect

Updated on May 24, 2018
RJ Schwartz profile image

I'm on the right side of politics and enjoy a good debate on government, the economy, and the rights of the people.

On May 23rd, 2018, a Federal Judge may have set precedent that will ripple through the social media community, with potentially platform-changing impact. Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, a Senior United States District Judge representing the Southern District of New York who was nominated to the Court by former President Bill Clinton in 1999 and gained senior status in 2012, recently addressed how the Constitution applies to social media. She specifically focused on whether President Trump’s practice of blocking people on Twitter was legal and permissible. This case is unique because it’s the first of its kind, but also because it potentially brings Twitter into the sights of government regulators.

The case was originally brought forward by a group of seven Twitter users, who sued the President in July of 2018, for blocking them. Blocking someone on Twitter means they cannot see or respond to the tweets, or posts, of the user. The group made the claim that the Twitter feed of President Trump should be considered an official government channel, and furthermore that blocking anyone from it was a violation of their 1st Amendment rights. The President’s lawyers argued that a social media platform in not a public forum, due to requirements from Twitter or Facebook to set up an account in order to access content; no true public forum has a firewall to prevent any citizen from access. Also, the tweets sent by the President are reprinted numerous times in other publications; no one is excluded from the information.

Welcome Spammers, Trouble-makers, and All Sorts of Trolls

The President may tweet more often than other officials, but he’s certainly not unique in his adaptation of social media as a tool. Former President Obama is credited with being the first United States President to truly leverage social media as an effective tool; first for campaigning and then later for selective communications. Looking across the nation, almost every public office holder has some sort of social media presence. Moreover, the Federal Government as a whole operates approximately 9,000 social media accounts. Information about those accounts can be found at the United States Digital Service and most of those accounts are on Facebook or Twitter. Each government area has a social media policy which details how the account can be used and by whom; this new ruling may require a complete review and possible change in how those accounts are managed.

Judge Buchwald ruled that it is unconstitutional for the President to block anyone, but many believe that her ruling will have a ripple effect that could force universal changes to all social media platforms. She was very clear that her ruling was to apply to all government officials. Extrapolating on this ruling means simply, that if the President, who holds a taxpayer elected position, is expected to follow a set of rules then the same rules should apply to all persons holding office. Seemingly the same logic should also be followed by anyone who is running for office and furthermore anyone works for the taxpayers should be expected to comply. This would mean that all officials, agencies, and other taxpayer-funded entities must unblock everyone, including spammers, agitators, and complainers. This ruling may cause a flood of lawsuits from a wide-spectrum of social media users who feel they need to be heard. To some of the President’s opponents, this ruling may sound like a win, but it looks likely to boomerang on the entire establishment.

© 2018 Ralph Schwartz

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  • RJ Schwartz profile imageAUTHOR

    Ralph Schwartz 

    4 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

    I really expected more from this topic on the internet, but with the whole Roseanne/Ivanka the C**t/and tafiffs it must have been too much to cover.

  • RJ Schwartz profile imageAUTHOR

    Ralph Schwartz 

    4 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

    Twitter is famous for its shadowbanning or outright suspending of any conservative voice - or worse, anyone who talks pro-American or has an American Flag or other patriotic icon in their profile picture.

    Also, did you notice that every website in the world seems to be sending out new privacy policies? It's like they know they've been illegally using all of our personal data for years to generate revenue but now with the Facebook thing they are panicking.

  • tsadjatko profile image

    4 months ago from now on

    Sooooo.....they are "twits"

    Twit: an insignificant, silly, or bothersome person

  • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

    Wesman Todd Shaw 

    4 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

    I've never seen so much hate in my life. Twitter is really something. Only anti-conservative and anti-white hate are allowed though. The place makes Facebook seem friendly.

  • tsadjatko profile image

    4 months ago from now on

    Wes, I just love your comments! lol The only thing keeping twitter alive is Trump. You can bet if the Democrats and media didn't want Trump tweeting they'd have already shut down twitter. His tweets are great for his base but the media would have one less criticism of Trump if twitter went away and they know nothing will sour his base anyway.

    What are people who tweet called? Twits?

  • RJ Schwartz profile imageAUTHOR

    Ralph Schwartz 

    4 months ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

    Funny thing is on Twitter now there are people calling out different politicians who blocked them - let the fun begin

  • MizBejabbers profile image

    Doris James-MizBejabbers 

    4 months ago from Beautiful South

    Hmmm. This is an interesting situation. Often the question has been asked as to why the internet isn't regulated, and the answer has always been given is that it is an international media and that it would be impossible. However, this ruling hits right at home. Coming from broadcasting, I remember when the equal time rule was in effect for politicians. I predict that this ruling by Judge Buchwald will last about as long, or maybe not even that long.

  • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

    Wesman Todd Shaw 

    4 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

    There will certainly be a ripple effect. Every politician had best get used to the same level of not being able to block.

    Hey, I absolutely hate Twitter. I'm hoping Twit goes belly up. Last I'd read they've never once turned a profit, so how much longer can it last anyway?

    Twitter censors and permanently bans persons for non pc content prolifically. Well, you can guess what happened to my account.

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