The previous occupant of the White House is asking a federal court in Florida to force Twitter to allow him to resume posting his baloney to their website.
I’m not going to waste my breath refuting the lies suffusing Trump’s claims. The primary legal point is this: the First Amendment, the foundation of this lawsuit, does not grant anyone the right to compel speech by private actors.
I own Dakota Free Press. I have banned a handful of commenters from this blog. I daily intercept and delete comments from anonymous and non-responsive commenters, and I occasionally delete comments I find uninstructive. The authors of those blocked comments have no legal recourse to force me to publish their statements. If you have something to say that I won’t post, tough shiskey: get your own blog. (And no, the fact that you suck at blogging does not give you the right to force another blogger or online channel to publish your dreck.)
South Dakota’s newspapers are all privately owned. They pay for their own ink and gasoline and web hosting to transmit the news they find fit for our doorsteps. While they certainly serve the public interest by covering the news, they are not obliged to report on every local grievance that individuals may bring to their attention. Some issues just aren’t newsworthy, and the owners of the newspapers get to make that call.
Our TV and radio stations operate with federal broadcast licenses. They can use the airwaves to transmit their messages solely with the permission of the public. Our licensed broadcasters have a legal obligation to serve the public interest, but KELO, KOTA, and Dakota Broadcasting are not required to point their mics and cameras at any crank on the street demanding attention.
Twitter is a private company. It has a lot of reach. But even if we rewrote FCC rules to consider Twitter a broadcaster using public Webwaves to spread its messages and make money, courts could not compel Twitter to publish Donald Trump’s lies any more they could compel Twitter to restore the accounts of domestic terrorists or Russian psy-ops agents trying to undermine American democracy.
If Twitter and other private publishers in the United States have any obligation, it is to call out and quash liars and agents of destruction like the menace from Mar-a-Lago.