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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A federal judge just turned Twitter and Facebook into public utilities

In what might be the most hilarious case of unintended consequences in recent memory, today Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has ruled that President Donald Trump was wrong to have blocked users from his Twitter feed... which inadvertently has officially designated Twitter (and by extension Facebook and YouTube and other social media outlets) to be common carriers like the telephone system!

In a 75-page ruling, Judge Buchwald declared that Twitter was a "designated public forum" on which Trump could not discriminate against selected readers by blocking their accounts. "This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, 'block' a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the President of the United States," Buchwald said in her opinion. "The answer to both questions is no."

So let's tear this down...

If a person is a "public official", that person can not "mute" communication between himself or herself and selected members of the audience based on their political views.  It is effectively giving the President a right to be heard whether he wants to be heard or not.

So when do these same protections get extended to ordinary citizens like Diamond & Silk, who have been chronically banned (and reinstated after considerable public outcry) from Facebook and other social media venues?

The documented cases of those who have seen their Facebook posts, tweets, and YouTube clips purged down the memory hole have have had one outstanding factor overwhelmingly in common: they have pertained to those who hold what are often deemed to be "conservative" beliefs.  Too many have been banned outright or have been "shadow banned": made to look as if they are broadcasting their message out but in fact have had their posts and tweets throttled down or shut down completely by Twitter or Facebook or whoever.  Indeed, I would go so far as to say that it is now an open secret that there is extremely active discrimination being practiced on the part of self-ascribed "liberals" and "progressives" within the tech industry against those who they disagree with.  So much so that some have wondered if there might be RICO charges on the basis of advertising purchased with these companies only to have potential audiences algorithm-ed out of sight and out of mind.

But now thanks to Naomi Reice Buchwald, Twitter and other social media platforms have been officially defined to be "common carriers" like AT&T, Comcast, and a lot of other companies.  In business but also subject to regulation by the government to ensure fair practices and privileges for all.  And if users of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram are being censored not because of inappropriate behavior but purely on the basis of ideology, well...

This is gonna be totally fun to watch as it unfolds.  Wouldn't surprise me if Twitter came down on Trump's side if it keeps them and every other social media outfit out of regulatory jurisdiction.


Rick said...

The leftists loved it when Obama used the official Presidential Twitter account to block people.

Chris Knight said...

Obama should not have done it and Trump should not have done it. Blocking Twitter users when one is President of the United States is petty, crass and immature. Obviously there is also the matter of public record to also consider.

That being said, this judge has set a precedent that will sow the wind.