U.S. Supreme Court dismisses case over Trump and Twitter critics


Supreme Court vacates ruling barring Trump from blocking Twitter critics, saying case is moot

In court papers, they said Trump's account, @realDonaldTrump, "functions as an official source of news and information about the government, and as a forum for speech by, to, and about the President". Trump, a Republican, left office in January, replaced by Democratic President Joe Biden.

Trump set up his Twitter account in March 2009 and brought it with him to the White House, where it became one of his favourite means of communication.

The ruling was upheld by a Manhattan federal appeals court in 2019, which deemed Trump's actions unconstitutional.

The US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in NY upheld a ruling that Trump could not block his critics on the platform, because he used it as a means of communication with the public while in office. The First Amendment prohibits the government - but not private individuals - from censoring criticism. Trump used the account to announce new policies, fire Cabinet secretaries, and later make unfounded claims of election fraud.

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The Justice Department then sought review by the Supreme Court.

April 5, 2021-Despite accepting a petition that avoids the Supreme Court deliberating on whether a president can block social media users, Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday issued a volley that may foreshadow future legal issues surrounding social media in the United States.

Thomas acknowledged how modern technology is not always easily addressed by existing legal doctires, and warned that the Supreme Court "will soon have no choice but to address how our legal doctrines apply to highly concentrated, privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms". The plaintiffs requested, nevertheless, that the 2nd Circuit opinion be allowed to face, because it has implications for social media use by public officers throughout the nation.

In his opinion, Thomas raised the possibility that large tech platforms like Facebook and Google could be prohibited from exercising editorial judgment about users' posts.

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"The Second Circuit feared that then-President Trump cut off speech by using the features that Twitter made available to him", Thomas wrote, referring to the lower court's ruling that Trump violated the First Amendment by blocking critics.

"Today's digital platforms provide avenues for historically unprecedented amounts of speech, including speech by government actors", he went on to say. It isn't clear how Thomas is applying the real-world definition of "places of public accommodations" to the all-digital Twitter and Facebook.

If so, those companies could theoretically be subject to regulations prohibiting them from discriminating against speech based on its content.

"The similarities between some digital platforms and common carriers or places of public accommodation may give legislators strong arguments for similarly regulating digital platforms", Thomas said. "But if the aim is to ensure that speech is not smothered, then the more glaring concern must perforce be the dominant digital platforms themselves". He suggested other doctrines could, however, affect the right of a private company to exclude.

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