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The Folly of Government-Imposed Social Media 'Neutrality'


Trump supports a bill that would encourage censorship in the name of free speech.

Last week, two days after he lost a First Amendment lawsuit brought by critics he had blocked on Twitter, Donald Trump promised to "protect the free speech rights of ALL AMERICANS" through "regulatory and legislative solutions" aimed at guaranteeing equal access to social media. "At a time when social media platforms are banning conservative voices and supporters of the president," said Brad Parscale, Trump's 2020 campaign manager, "it's important for President Trump to emphasize that he appreciates their support and wants to protect their First Amendment rights."

No one would mistake the president, who averred during his "social media summit" that press coverage he considers unfair is "not free speech," for a constitutional scholar. But his views reflect widespread confusion about the First Amendment that has led many of his supporters to endorse policies that would interfere with freedom of speech in the name of protecting it.

In the case that Trump lost, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled that he had created a "public forum" by using his Twitter account for official purposes and letting people participate in the "interactive space" associated with it. Under those circumstances, the court said, the president could not constitutionally exclude Twitter users whose opinions offended him.

The principle described in that decision is politically neutral. On the same day the 2nd Circuit issued its ruling, two critics of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a prominent Trump opponent, filed lawsuits arguing that she had violated their First Amendment rights by blocking them on Twitter because of their views.

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