Another View: Twitter and the First Amendment

I try to keep these blog postings both short and readable.  That's one reason there are links to articles and legal documents (which I hope you read).  Of course, the issues I blog about quite often don't fit neatly in that format.  While I try not to "dumb down" issues, I can't flesh out every aspect of it.  And since the main purpose of this blog is "legal education for all", it's only proper that I give you differing views on these issues.

Eugene Volokh is a highly respected law professor at UCLA, specializing in the First Amendment.  He is also a well-known blogger, most notably for The Volokh Conspiracy. He published a piece before the Knight Center suit was filed, responding to a letter the Knight Center sent to President Trump, arguing that his viewpoint-based blocking of people from his Twitter account violated the First Amendment.  Trump and his aides did not comply with the letter asking that the people represented by the Knight Center (2 of the 6 eventual plaintiffs) be unblocked.  Hence the lawsuit.

Volokh and I see things slightly differently, so I urge you to read his piece.  (Actually, anything I have ever seen for him is worth a read; The Volokh Conspiracy can be found in the Wahington Post and on Twitter).  While finding the matter "not open and shut", he doesn't feel that the position of the Knight Center has it "quite right."  (Volokh is a careful, balanced writer).  I think the main point of disagreement is whether or not Trump is running his account as Trump-the-man (his view) or Trump-the-President (my view).  Volokh also points to two cases in federal court (the Eastern District of Virginia) which deal with deletion of Facebook comments from Virginia government agencies.  The opinions are somewhat lengthy, but Volokh nicely summarizes them, most notably the point that office-holder run accounts operated by the government and not a government official are subject to First Amendment constraints.  (One of the cases did find a First Amendment violation which Volokh talks about in this post, published after the Knight Center filed its lawsuit).  Even so, Volokh feels that even if Trump gets some help (typos and all, as he says) it's still Trump-the-man, but again, "this falls near a borderline that has that has not been mapped in detail".  I just see it differently.

If it were easy, we wouldn't be blogging about it. Stay tuned.


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