One of my favorite things to talk about is politics. Twitter offers me and millions of users a valuable platform to do so.
Talking about politics inevitably invites comments from people with opposing opinions. And I enjoy hearing other people’s stances.
But there are many people who don’t enjoy the voices of critics. President Donald Trump is one of those people.
Trump has gone so far as to block users who react negatively to his tweets or post content he disagrees with. These people include activist group leaders, celebrities and even journalists. While this may make the Twitter experience more enjoyable for Trump, it threatens the rights upheld by the First Amendment and our democracy as a whole.
The ability Trump has to block his critics on Twitter puts our right to free speech and a free press at a huge risk, which is unconstitutional and concerning.
In June, former Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump considers his tweets to be official White House statements. Since then, Trump has used Twitter to announce policy ideas and call for action in the private sector. In July, Trump tweeted about banning transgender people from serving in the military. And in September, he called for the firing of NFL players who refuse to stand during the national anthem.
“If Sean Spicer said that…we have to take that for face value, that his [tweets] are official statements of the president,” said Bruce Hardy, a communication and social influence professor. “Do I think the president should use more official channels? Of course I do.”
If these tweets are supposed to be taken as legitimate policy announcements — as members of this administration said they should be — it’s unlawful to restrict such information from certain citizens.
According to a Newsweek report, scholars from Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection helped file a lawsuit claiming that Trump’s blocking on Twitter violates the First Amendment.
“Well-established legal precedent makes clear that viewpoint discrimination — such as blocking critics while allowing supporters to express their views — violates the First Amendment,” the legal brief reads.
The Georgetown Law legal brief also speculated that Trump’s need for a sense of constant admiration may lead other government officials to crave the same — thus blocking out their critics, too.
Having a president who so proudly speaks his mind, and in turn hopes to silence his critics, goes against citizens’ right to free speech.
“We see norms being violated we didn’t even know existed,” said Michael Hagen, a political science professor. “It’s increasing the gulf between his supporters and those who don’t support him.”
And this divide will grow if Trump continues to block Twitter users who criticize him.
“It would be a really unfortunate turn of events if the president stopped hearing critics and an unfortunate turn of events if critics stopped hearing from him,” Hagen said.
The media is expected to act as the Fourth Estate of America’s checks-and-balances system to specifically ensure our democratic system stays intact. If Trump refuses to hear from his critics in the media, our democracy is put at risk.
While Trump describes his constant Twitter use as “modern-day presidential,” his overuse of the platform raises issues of giving social media too much power in our government.
“I think the larger problem is using Twitter as the official mode of communication between people and constituents and candidates,” Hardy said. “We need the mainstream media for checks and balances.”
Hardy said most of the president’s tweets have been attacks on the mainstream media publications that are known for their quickness to correct and critique Trump. Blocking reporters from seeing Trump’s tweets poses a danger to our system of checks and balances.
Trump is currently facing a lawsuit regarding his constant Twitter blocking. The growth of Trump’s presence on Twitter has turned his personal account into a public government platform, while taking down politicians and media sites in his way.
Ultimately, Trump’s abuse of power to block his faultfinders on Twitter is unconstitutional. All citizens, regardless of their view of the president, should have access to the information he releases.