Online Freedom

This is very disturbing to me:

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, addressing a novel issue about how the Constitution applies to social media platforms and public officials, found that the president’s Twitter feed is a public forum. As a result, she ruled that when Mr. Trump or an aide blocked seven plaintiffs from viewing and replying to his posts, he violated the First Amendment.

I don’t give a drat about Trump’s Twitter or the freakazoids he blocked from it. (Read the quoted article to find out why they are freakazoids.) But the idea that people’s social media accounts are “public forums” over which the authors should have no control is anathema to me.

I’m a public employee, so it can be argued that I owe access to my passworded posts to the taxpayers who pay my salary. The likelihood of somebody wanting to make this argument is tiny but even the shadow of the possibility that somebody is entitled to interacting with me online, whether I want it or not, is enough to scare me off line.

If you are a popular blogger, you know that “this is a public forum” is the favorite phrase of trolls and harassers online. Once an actual judge supports this vision of individual social media accounts, one more step is made towards demolishing online freedom.

Trumps come and go. And rulings that chip away at our freedoms remain.

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15 thoughts on “Online Freedom”

  1. This is all very silly.

    He brought this on himself by running for President and using Twitter the way he does — to make breaking policy announcements that don’t happen in other forums. If we could be reasonably convinced he wouldn’t announce World War III on Twitter then none of this would be an issue and he could block anybody he wanted. He made it into a public information channel. If I have to be subjected to endless stories of “The President said on Twitter” in various non Twitter media streams with endless retweets of “The President said on Twitter” on actual Twitter when Twitter keeps letting Nazis and sockpuppets use their platform (but not in Germany), it hardly impinges on him to not be able to block people on Twitter.

    Imagine this on Twitter:

    You are a government employee but not a public official. We have a right to address our public officials.

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    1. That’s almost literally the argument that has been used against me. I brought it on myself by being a college professor and expressing views on my blog that hurt people. The blog is a public forum and is part of my professional duties. And this debacle happened back in 2011. Today it would be much worse. I’m self-censoring like crazy. There are dozens of topics I don’t write about because I’m afraid.

      Back in 2011, all I did was write that I’m against home-schooling. And people were writing letters to my Dean to get me fired. And today everybody is much more unhinged than back then.

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      1. That’s almost literally the argument that has been used against me. I brought it on myself by being a college professor and expressing views on my blog that hurt people. The blog is a public forum and is part of my professional duties. And this debacle happened back in 2011. Today it would be much worse. I’m self-censoring like crazy. There are dozens of topics I don’t write about because I’m afraid.

        But see, I can avoid you. The fact is I can avoid your blog in perfect peace and none of your followers are going to come after me. Your words can’t injure me in the same way POTUS or a government official can. This addresses banning people from talking to a public official. Harassment and threats aren’t under this.

        As for self censoring because I’m afraid people will try to use my words to get me fired? This ruling does nothing for that. I make sure to lock down all my social media platforms, use different pictures, shield commenting history if I’ve used a commenter login, made sure not to use sites to universal login anywhere, make sure I don’t use the same profile picture everywhere, etc. Everyone carries a smart phone in their pocket. My social media accounts are as bland as dry toast so it they do get publicized there is nothing there. I’m absolutely nobody of any significance.

        Bad facts make bad law.

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        1. The plaintiffs in this case were injured by Trump not allowing them to post ““To be fair you didn’t win the WH: Russia won it for you,” on his feed. That evildoer. It’s disgusting to be on his side. But it’s also disgusting to be on whatever side this little creep is on.

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        2. “The blog is a public forum and is part of my professional duties”

          No, it’s your personal forum, not your working one. Trump’s Twitter account is a public forum and is part of his professional duties.

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          1. Once again, what makes you think anybody will ask me or you how we definite our working space and professional duties if even the president of the US doesn’t get to define his?

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    1. What makes you think we get to define that for ourselves? Once there is legal precedent that one’s social media belong to the public, how do you argue you should be an exception?

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      1. This is a slippery slope sophism. You’re not a politician and your blog is not supported by your University. No comparison here.

        Trump has defined himself this so-called “exception”. This is no longer his personal space by his own actions. In Québécois, we would say: tu ne peux pas avoir à la fois le beurre et l’argent du beurre.

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  2. People are too busy enjoying Trump’s “comeuppance” to consider that the only reason they can ban trolls is that the concept of having the right to “free speech” on someone else’s social media account didn’t exist until now.

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    1. Finally somebody gets what I’m trying to say! Thank you.

      People are missing this disturbing development because it’s Trump. And it’s nice to see him thwarted in something. But this is a legal system that is built around precedent. This will set precedent 20 years from now when everybody will have long forgotten who Trump is.

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