Editorial: The public square doesn’t always get First Amendment protection – The Bulletin

Posted: March 7, 2021 at 1:07 pm

In 1937, Frank Hague, the mayor of Jersey City, banned the Committee for Industrial Organization from gathering in a public place to talk about unions. He called them communists.

The CIO challenged the ban, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The case eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court found for the CIO in 1939. The ruling became known as the public forum doctrine. It helped prevent the public from being muzzled by the government under the First Amendment.

The public has no such protection in being muzzled by private companies. If Twitter wants to ban former President Donald Trump for life, it may do so. If Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube want to ban you from their platforms, they can.

Maybe you wouldnt mind. Maybe you would even be better off. But the big social platforms have created unprecedented ways for people to communicate nationally and worldwide. That also gives them unprecedented power when they decide to shut people or groups out. If the government did that, there could be a challenge in court. If Twitter does it, good luck.

Of course, the big social media platforms are not the only games in town. There are lesser -known alternatives. New ones will spring up. Still, getting gagged by the big ones certainly curtails reach.

You may believe Trump deserved to be shut down. Claims of massive voter fraud in the November election have not been supported by facts in court. It was also odd for him to tell the rioters who assaulted the Capitol to go home and, in nearly the same breath, we love you, youre very special.

Social media platforms have long blocked postings they found offensive. But if they can just turn off a sitting president, is something out of balance? Who else could they shut down? They have become the de facto editors of ideas on a global scale. Newspapers and other more traditional media have their own struggles with such issues. They just dont play at the same level.

As the ACLU said this year, more than 80 years after the Hague case, ...(I)t should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions especially when political realities make those decisions easier.

Read the rest here:
Editorial: The public square doesn't always get First Amendment protection - The Bulletin

Related Post