MIAMI – Following the siege of the U.S. Capitol, President Donald Trump was permanently banned from Twitter and blocked on several other social media sites.
Alternative sites like Parler will also be closed, but legal experts say social media bans won’t break the first change.
“It may be unwise to exclude some people from these platforms,” said Nina Brown, attorney and professor of media law at the Newhouse School of Public Communications in Syracuse. “With the first change, Twitter can decide how it wants to speak.”
While some said Twitter’s ban on President Donald Trump’s accounts violated his first right of amendment, Brown said the argument doesn’t hold water. That’s because the first change doesn’t apply to private companies, and furthermore, arguments that Twitter should possibly be forced to re-enable it “actually violate Twitter’s first change rights,” she said.
The picture from Friday, January 8, 2021 shows President Donald Trump’s blocked Twitter account. On Friday, the social media company finally suspended Trump from its platform and cited “the risk of further incitement to violence”. (AP photo)
When it comes to freedom of expression, there are limitations. Former prosecutor and federal attorney David Weinstein stated that while hate speech is protected, a limit will be crossed if that speech triggers imminent lawlessness.
“In many ways people make hateful statements, but the words they say are meant to inspire others to do immediate harm,” Weinstein said.
The question, taken from a 1969 Supreme Court case, Brandenburg v Ohio, posed a two-part test to determine when the speech advocating violence loses its initial amending protection.
The government can restrict language if it is aimed at encouraging or arousing imminent lawless acts and is likely to incite or arouse such acts.
Social media and the way ideas are exchanged may be new, but limits to certain speeches are set in case law.
Brandenburg v Ohio (1969): “The Court has used a two-pronged test to assess speech acts: (1) language can be prohibited if it is aimed at” inducing or evoking imminent lawless acts, “and (2) it is” likely “to encourage or evoke such actions. ‘”
Read the case and listen to the oral presentation: https://www.oyez.org/cases/1968/492
Manhattan Community Access Corp. v Halleck (2019): The Supreme Court ruling stated that the first change does not apply to private companies. “Judge Brett Kavanaugh drafted the opinion for a 5-4 majority. The freedom of speech clause forbids the government to abbreviate a person’s speech, and the court’s doctrine of government action determines whether an actor is government, subject to the first amendment or a private person who doesn’t. “
Read the case and listen to oral arguments: https://www.oyez.org/cases/2018/17-1702
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