By KrisAnne Hall, JD
President Trump has been blocking people from his @realDonaldTrump account. A federal judge says Trump is violating the First Amendment. Is the right to freedom of speech being violated by Trump through his actions on Twitter? The answer to this question requires a two-step Constitutional review process.
First, Twitter is a private forum, run by a private company. Something becomes a violation of rights when the government is the offender. People do not have their rights violated when Twitter, as a private company, censors and blocks persons from their forum. Private businesses still retain the right to refuse to do business with customers, regardless of the confusion created by the recent issues with photographers and cake bakers. Additionally, people do not have their rights violated when they are blocked on Twitter by another private individual. The principle here is: No government actor, no violations of rights.
But this is not only a question of Twitter blocking customers. This is a question of the President of the United States, a government actor, blocking discussion from his Twitter feed. So the question is: Is Donald Trump a private citizen or a government actor?
The argument could be made that the @realDonaldTrump account is Trump’s personal account and as a private account maintained by a private citizen, people being blocked do not have their rights being violated. However that argument fails the moment Donald Trump discusses “presidential business” on this “private” account.
Trump transforms his private account into the account of a government agent through his own choice of topics discussed. Since Trump is president, he is a government agent. Since Trump uses his Twitter account to discuss presidential business the account is not private, it becomes a public forum. Therefore, those blocked by Trump on his @realDonaldTrump account are having their voice silenced by a government actor regarding public affairs. This is a clear violation of the right to freedom of speech.
The quick fix for Mr. Trump is to not block anyone, or to stop using the @realDonaldTrump account to discuss public business and confine that conversation to the @POTUS account. That way he may maintain control over his truly private account and leave government business to the government account.
KrisAnne Hall is a former biochemist, Russian linguist for the US Army, and former prosecutor for the State of Florida. KrisAnne also practiced First Amendment Law for a prominent Florida non-profit Law firm. KrisAnne now travels the country teaching the foundational principles of Liberty and our Constitutional Republic. KrisAnne is the author of 6 books on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, she also has an internationally popular radio and television show and her books and classes have been featured on C-SPAN TV. KrisAnne can be found at www.KrisAnneHall.com.
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