We are entering into an incredibly grey area when it comes to social media and politics. We have all seen President Trump’s tweets and have all wondered how he can get away with it. And, we have also all seen when he blocks someone. I think, most recently, I saw a tweet where he had blocked Crissy Tiegen. She admitted to having been trolling him for a long time now, and took this more as a joke than anything. But now, according to a federal court in Virginia, there might be more to this. The court handed down a verdict which essentially states that politicians can’t block constituents on social media. The argument is pretty clear in that the constituents have a right to free speech. Therefore, if a politician is using social media to engage citizens, they don’t have the right to block them.
The ACLU has described this as being unconstitutional, because it sends the message that a person can’t present an opinion without fear of prosecution. Especially when that opinion might not be one of the prevailing public. To take a step back momentarily. This case went to court because Phyllis Randal, chairwoman of the Loudon County Board of Supervisors blocked a constituent on Facebook. A citizen posted that he thought there was corruption in the Supervisor’s office, and was subsequently blocked.
Randall’s lawyer argued that the Facebook page doesn’t represent the government. It is not housed on their servers, nor do they maintain it. But because Randall is seeking out public engagement, the judge felt that this wasn’t a good argument. Randall isn’t really in any kind of hot water with this. But I think it sends a clear message. Simply that you can’t block a constituent because you disagree with what they are saying. Further, I suspect that if it was really bad, or maybe even personal, the politician would have a case. But simply not agreeing with what a person is saying doesn’t give you the right to block them.
I will be interested to see how this plays out for other politicians. As I mentioned before President Trump is all about blocking people. While I’m not defending him in any way, maybe some of the trolling that he receives would be considered out of line in relation to this kind of case. I’m of the opinion that he has thin skin. The arguments have been made 100 times, but how does he have that much time to read all the tweets that are directed at him? I honestly don’t even have that much time most days to read my Twitter feed.
There is a case against President Trump, which is essentially along the same lines. I’m extremely interested to find out what is the test for determining whether or not something falls into free speech, or if it is simply trolling. The courts will need to determine this measure or test, as it’s not something that most of us could say. I think there is a fine line, but I’m not sure what it is. I am not defending politicians as their job is, essentially, to be able to handle and respond to this type of criticism. Some people, for sure, go too far though, and I think that’s where the court needs to make a determination. But if you want to stay in the game (and yes, it’s a game) grow some thicker skin.