Trump Can’t Shut Down Social Media Platforms — ’He’s Backwards’– Explains Harvard Law Professor
Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe tells HollywoodLife why President Donald Trump has no authority to violate the 1st amendment and shut down social media platforms.
President Donald Trump‘s threat to shut down social media platforms is as empty as can be, according to renowned constitutional expert and Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe. Tribe explained in an EXCLUSIVE interview with HollywoodLife that by doing so, the president would be violating the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects freedom of speech. Shuttering social media platforms “would violate the First Amendment, because [Trump] would have to be acting as the government,” Tribe said. “He would have to be doing it through the Federal Communications Commission or the Federal Trade Commission. The government can’t shut down speakers because they criticize the president. And that’s been established since the founding of the Republic. And that’s wrong just every which way.”
Trump tweeted on May 27 that, “Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen. We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016. We can’t let a more sophisticated version of that happen again. Just like we can’t let large scale Mail-In Ballots take root in our Country. It would be a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of Ballots. Whoever cheated the most would win. Likewise, Social Media. Clean up your act, NOW!!!!” His idle threat came the day after Twitter, for the first time, officially fact-checked two of his tweets.
The president had tweeted on May 26, without evidence, that voting by mail would lead to a “rigged election” and widespread voter fraud. He even claimed that the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, had sent ballots “to millions of people, anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there.” This, of course, is false. After discovering he had been fact-checked by Twitter, his favorite social medium, Trump tweeted that the platform was “interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election. They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post. Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!”
Not exactly, says Tribe. Twitter, as a private company, is not violating Trump’s First Amendment rights by simply fact-checking his erroneous statements, he explained. “The 1st amendment doesn’t apply to a private platform like Twitter any more than it applies to [HollywoodLife] or The New York Times or to USA Today. It only applies to the government, and basically says that the government cannot censor speech. Basically, [Trump’s] barking up the wrong tree to begin with. Even if Twitter, just for the sake of argument, did have to comply with the First Amendment as if it were the government, the First Amendment creates absolute freedom to express opinions. And that’s all Twitter is doing. It’s saying, ‘in our opinion, this is misleading when the president says that there will be a lot of cheating and voter fraud if we use mail-in ballots for the 2020 election.’”
Tribe pointed out the ultimate irony of Trump’s cries that his freedom of speech was allegedly violated: Trump was previously sued after blocking Twitter users from seeing his tweets. “If anyone is violating the 1st amendment in connection with Twitter, it’s Trump,” Tribe said. “Because the [Second Circuit] Court of Appeals in New York held that when Trump tries to knock people off of his Twitter feed and prevent them in engaging in back and forth with him, simply because he disagrees with them or doesn’t like them, or thinks that they’re purveyors of fake news, he is violating their First Amendment rights.”
“Even though Twitter is a private platform, the president is hardly private,” Tribe continued. “Trump is completely backwards. Whatever he believes he’s saying, nobody could ever guess. But if he does believe [that his rights are being violated], it just shows that he’s a total fool.”
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