Some time back, I argued strongly here that the Twitter account @realDonaldTrump was not a limited public forum for the purposes of First Amendment analysis.
Without restating my excellent arguments at the time, I would like to acknowledge that I may have been . . . er . . . slightly off base.
I expected that the usage of @realDonaldTrump would continue to show, after time, a more personal take on events and @POTUS would offer more official statements and responses.
That hasn’t happened. To the contrary, @POTUS seems to exist merely to retweet content first posted by @realDonaldTrump and other administration figures as well as favorable news content. The @realDonaldTrump account has increased its output of both personal and what I’d call “government business,” content.
So, I’m thinking a butter-soaked slow smoke of crow breast is on the menu for me. I was wrong.
Bricker, did you really expect anything different out of Trump? What was your reasoning?
Also, this present an interesting governmental issue. How to reconcile a private communications channel @realDonaldTrump with federal recordkeeping requirements. I guarantee you he ain’t turning over control once he’s out of office.
It would be reasonable to argue that the @realdonaldtrump account was not a limited public form, in the sense of the First Amendment, in the past, but that it did attain this status as a result of events that have taken place since Trump became President.
If I can guess at Bricker’s reasoning here: prior to January 20, 2017, @realdonaldtrump obviously could not be considered a designated forum, as it were nothing more or less than a private citizen’s Twitter account. Conversely, today, it is used almost entirely for communicating government business and the positions of the President and his administration, and so it has transformed into a limited public forum. At some point between 20/1/2017 and today it reached some tipping point between being a private citizen’s voice and the voice of the executive branch. Of course, Donald Trump himself has said it’s a “presidential” account, so he kinda agrees with the idea.
Now, if I am correct in stating his views, I admit I am not sure I buy Bricker’s new position on this.
I’m no lawyer, but the point of the “limited public form” term of art is that the forum is, well, limited. The landmark case in the matter was Southeastern Promotions v Conrad, where the City of Chattanooga refused permission to use an auditorium for the mounting of the musical “Hair” because they thought it offensive. The Court’s position was that since the auditorium had been allowed for use for many form of expression already, to deny its use because of a form of expression was a violation of the First Amendment. You can deny use of a limited public form for other reasons - for instance, Chattanooga could tear the auditorium down entirely, or state that people who use it must be residents of Tennessee, or a bunch of things, but NOT the content of expression.
I am not super clear on how Trump’s Twitter account precisely meets this criteria. Trump does not offer other people the opportunity to use his Twitter account to express things. It exists for him to express things. No one is denied the use of Twitter by the government; it’s a private company.
Considering this recent @realDonaldTrump tweet: “Wow, more than 90% of Fake News Media coverage of me is negative, with numerous forced retractions of untrue stories. Hence my use of Social Media, the only way to get the truth out. Much of Mainstream Meadia has become a joke!”(bolding mine, spelling his), does this mean that this is currently his primary means of communication with the public?
I rise to bitch about failing standards in our local sky-writing service. I paid good money for “Bricker was WRONG!”, comic sans, letters not less than three hundred yards each, visible for fifty miles. The invoice clearly says so! And what the fuck does “Bricker was WRING!” even mean?
I suppose that “should the President use Twitter as his primary means of communicating with the public” is a different debate?
Since it is President Trump’s chosen media, I would argue that he cannot block members of the public from viewing or responding to his account (he does, but he should not be able to). Further, he should not be able to edit, or delete his tweets. They are part of the public record, and should be allowed to remain so.
ETA: regarding the original question as to crow, I’ll give you a pass. Trump is hardly a normal president in any respect. No reason a perfectly innocent crow should have to pay the price for his idiocy. I note and appreciate the offer.
When he blocks people, they lose the ability to participate in threaded Twitter conversation. (A blocked person can read a tweet by not signing in, but can’t reply). Twitter conversations are viewable by others, so in a sense, Trump DOES offer other people the opportunity to express things as a consequence of his use of Twitter. It’s this facet that triggers the importance of deciding what type of forum it is.
I have a twitter account, but barely use it, so forgive my ignorance. Can you actually block someone from reading your feed? Presumably blocking them prevents them from interacting with you or your content, but I routinely went there to verify tweets before I ever had an account of my own.
So couldn’t anyone sign out of their account and read what @realDonaldTrump posts, blocked or not? If that’s the case, blocking someone doesn’t prevent them from reading his tweets. It prevents them from responding or retweeting, but that’s a different issue.
I tried to construct an argument against this… but, to be honest, having thought about it for a bit, I cannot. I’m not sure how Trump or the federal government would be egregiously put out by NOT blocking someone’s account.
My comparison was going to be the screening they put into people allowed to go to WH press briefings - you can’t just show up to one and get in, and if you are allowed in and you yell at Sarah Huckabee Sanders that she’s d dumb bitch and the President is a shit-eating fuck face, they’ll drag you out, dump you in the street next to Omarosa, and threaten to shoot you if you ever come back. But of course, there is a legitimate public interest in restricting that sort of access because if you didn’t it’d be a security concern and a complete gorilla panic crapfest. There is limited space in the briefing room and civil discourse is necessary for it to work at all. The government is really not being put out by NOT blocking someone on Twitter. There is no issue of space, no issue of security, and it doesn’t impede Trump at all if someone insults him.
Furthermore, the blockings seem kinda arbitrary. I’ve flat out called him a liar but he hasn’t blocked me. So, apparently, it doesn’t really affect him, and the blockings are more whim than meaningful decision.
Do these religious leaders have a point? They claim that Trump’s use of Twitter to make anti-Muslim statements and repostings of anti-Muslim videos violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
I think their opinion is buttressed by this: