The First Amendment prohibits the federal government abridging one’s free speech, but it does not, as a federal judge has ruled, require anyone to provide the soapbox for that speech.
U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of New York ruled recently that President Donald Trump may not block Twitter users who criticize him because that violates their right to free speech.
“While we must recognize, and are sensitive to, the president’s personal First Amendment rights, he cannot exercise those rights in a way that infringes the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticized him,” the judge said in her 75-page ruling, somewhat exceeding the 140-character limit of Twitter.
Any Twitter user can block people from accessing their online posts and replying to that user and their followers. Trump reportedly has posted 4,000 times on his personal @realDonaldTrump account to nearly 32 million followers. How that cacophony constitutes a public forum in which anyone can be heard strains credulity. But why should the president be obligated to give someone else unfettered access to those who have agreed to follow him?
The president should be treated no differently on his personal @realDonaldTrump account. His official presidential Twitter account, @POTUS — and why there is one of those is a mystery to us — is another matter entirely. He certainly may not block people from commenting on their own social media apps, but he is hardly obligated to accommodate anyone who wants to glom onto his personal Twitter account and use it as platform for their views. It is his soapbox. Create your own.
But the judge said Trump could not block people from following him on Twitter just because they had posted comments to which he objected, because that amounted to “viewpoint discrimination” by a public official in a public forum.
As Ronald Reagan once said: “I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!”
If Trump were to make a televised speech from the Oval Office, should the networks be required to keep the cameras rolling while any clown with a rant can piggyback on the speech by dashing up to the microphone?
It is like freedom of the press, which belongs to anyone who owns one.
A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.