This one, I think, is a bad beef. A Columbia University club known as the Knight First Amendment Institute, styling themselves a First Amendment advocate organization, has taken notice of the fact that President Donald Trump has blocked some folks from his personal twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, an account he’s had since well before the campaign and his election. The Director of the Institute, Jameel Jaffer, wrote a letter to “the Trump administration” claiming that the Constitution “requires” those accounts to be unblocked.
Users who have been blocked cannot follow you on Twitter, and they are limited in their ability to view your tweets, find your tweets using Twitter’s search function, and learn which accounts follow you…. Blocking users from your Twitter account violates the First Amendment. When the government makes a space available to the public at large for the purpose of expressive activity, it creates a public forum from which it may not constitutionally exclude individuals on the basis of viewpoint. This is true even if the space in question is “metaphysical” rather than physical.
What Jaffer is ignoring, among other things, is that the government did not create the @realDOnaldTrump account; private citizen Donald Trump did. The government created the @POTUS and @WhiteHouse accounts.
The President’s personal twitter account is not the same thing as @POTUS or @WhiteHouse, which are public forums created by the White House some administrations ago specifically for the purpose of passing out White House announcements and, perhaps, exchanging views.
So what do we have? This is what the 1st Amendment says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
None of that applies here. Trump’s blocking some folks from his personal twitter feed has nothing at all to do with religion, nor does it restrict the press—NLMSM or legitimate—at all. Even the use of social media as press—this blog, for instance, or established press’ and pressmen’s own Facebook pages, twitter feeds, Instagram setups, etc are not restricted in the slightest.
That leaves the question of free speech, peaceful assembly, and petitioning of the Government.
None of these are impacted by blocking some twitterers from a private account, either. Those folks still have unfettered access to the government via the @POTUS and @WhiteHouse accounts: they still can engage in free speech activities with the administration and with Trump; they still can peacefully assemble, even if that assembly is “metaphysical,” and they still can fully petition the Government. And that’s just through the government’s twitter feeds. These folks also have access via the White House’s Facebook page, email even via old-fashioned snail mail.
This is just some folks with more time on their hands than productive activities along with their rent-seeking lawyers manufacturing another excuse to whine.