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Trump’s Suspended Twitter, Hawley’s Canceled Book and the First Amendment


The publisher was free to make that decision, Professor Magarian said, but that does not mean it was the right one.

“I want a wide range of ideas, even those I loathe, to be heard, and I think Twitter especially holds a concerning degree of power over public discourse — Hawley’s right about that much,” he said. “But any suggestion that people like Trump and Hawley, and the viewpoints they espouse, will ever lack meaningful access to public attention is ludicrous. We should worry about private power over speech, but presidents and senators are the last speakers we need to worry about.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, too, said the free speech interests involved in suspending Mr. Trump’s Twitter account were complicated.

“We understand the desire to permanently suspend him now, but it should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions,” said Kate Ruane, an A.C.L.U. lawyer. “President Trump can turn to his press team or Fox News to communicate with the public, but others — like the many Black, brown and L.G.B.T.Q. activists who have been censored by social media companies — will not have that luxury.”

As it happens, the Supreme Court may decide as soon as Monday whether to hear a case about Mr. Trump’s Twitter account, one that nicely illustrates some of the distinctions raised by the recent developments. Lower courts have ruled that Mr. Trump violated the First Amendment by blocking users from his account.

Since Mr. Trump is a government official who used the account to conduct official business, a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, ruled in 2019 that the account was a public forum from which he was powerless to exclude people based on their viewpoints.

“We conclude that the evidence of the official nature of the account is overwhelming,” Judge Barrington D. Parker wrote for the court. “We also conclude that once the president has chosen a platform and opened up its interactive space to millions of users and participants, he may not selectively exclude those whose views he disagrees with.”



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