The Supreme Court dismissed a case Monday over former President Trump’s ability to block people on Twitter, reasoning that Mr. Trump is no longer president — or even part of the digital platform that has banned him.
But conservative Justice Clarence Thomas warned Big Tech that the high court — or lawmakers — may soon have to step in and address social media companies and their free rein to silence people “at any time for any or no reason.”
“As Twitter made clear, the right to cut off speech lies most powerfully in the hands of private digital platforms,” Justice Thomas wrote in a separate opinion. “The extent to which that power matters for purposes of the First Amendment and the extent to which that power could lawfully be modified raise interesting and important questions.”
The high court vacated a ruling from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that sided with people who sued Mr. Trump when he was president, alleging a First Amendment violation when he blocked them from interacting with his account on Twitter.
The appeals court reasoned that Mr. Trump is a government official and his account was a public forum — not under his private control — so critics should be able to view and interact with his account.
The court ultimately dismissed the challenge, because Mr. Trump left office on Jan. 20.
But Justice Thomas said that ruling is at odds with Twitter’s total control over the company, including its barring Mr. Trump from the platforms altogether.
“It seems rather odd to say that something is a government forum when a private company has unrestricted authority to do away with it,” Justice Thomas wrote. “The disparity between Twitter’s control and Mr. Trump’s control is stark, to say the least. Mr. Trump blocked several people from interacting with his messages. Twitter barred Mr. Trump not only from interacting with a few users, but removed him from the entire platform.”
He said, “Today’s digital platforms provide avenues for historically unprecedented amounts of speech, including speech by government actors.”
Twitter indefinitely suspended Mr. Trump from the platform in January after the attack on the Capitol Jan. 6. At the time, he had more than 88 million followers.
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