Early in January I questioned the use of Twitter by the president. He constantly uses @realDonaldTrump to expound on culture, society, and the media…all things related to the executive branch of the federal government…international relations…his campaign in 2020…and too often a stream of consciousness without any semblance of rationale thought. So I suggested that there be laws outlining what are official twitter accounts vs. personal accounts…and what can be said or published on each.
In a similar vein, there was a federal court ruling last Friday that found in favor of the complainant. Apparently three Republican members of Wisconsin Assembly blocked the liberal group One Wisconsin Now on Twitter…including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.
A federal judge Friday ruled state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and other top Republicans violated a liberal group’s constitutional rights when they blocked it from following them on Twitter.
The decision from U.S. District Judge William Conley siding with One Wisconsin Now is the latest indicator of the American legal system’s emerging views on social media’s role in democracy and to what extent political speech is protected there.
Conley’s ruling, which found OWN’s free speech on a public forum was violated, follows a similar case involving President Donald Trump, who has previously blocked followers on Twitter. In that case the court found the president had violated the blocked users’ constitutional rights and ordered him to unblock them.
The U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled definitively on any such cases, but it has argued social media represents a “vast democratic forum.”
Conley ruled the Republican lawmakers in the case blocked OWN’s account specifically because of its liberal political views, a violation of free speech on a public forum.
The biggest problem will be in determining and defining what is an official twitter account that should only be used for official business…one that must allow anyone to follow. And personal accounts that maintain the individual’s rights to privacy and free speech. I understand the rights of individuals to have their own personal accounts. How to you legislate this stuff?
An amusing little diatribe from John Muir states that politicians have rights too. And as I said…yes they do…but they have unique responsibilities to the community in their district and in the case of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to the state at large as well.
Conley says it is wrong for elected officials to keep anyone from responding to their posts.
But isn’t it wrong to deprive an American citizen of their freedoms? Politicians are still American citizens. They should have the right to interact, or not interact, with whomever they’d like.
If a politician blocks a user from seeing his/her tweets, it’s not like that user is completely shut off from everything the politician is doing.
That user still has the ability to visit the politician’s website (and other social media accounts, when applicable) and can contact the politician’s office.
The judge in this case got it wrong with his ruling, as did the judge who ruled against President Trump in a previous lawsuit brought by Twitter users that Trump blocked.
In that case, it was even worse since Trump was blocking them on his personal account, not the official presidential account, @POTUS.
Politicians might hold office, but they should still be treated as American citizens.
So there is confusion…what is a personal account and what is an official account. At some point…soon…we need to delineate that so everyone…the electeds and the public at large…know the difference and how we expect them to be utilized.