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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "block"

AOC: I have every right to block your harassing tweets

Westlake Legal Group a-3 AOC: I have every right to block your harassing tweets tweets The Blog ocasio-cortez Knight First Amendment Institute harassment Free Speech First Amendment Columbia University block AOC

Not true, although I share her basic mystification at the idea that a Twitter block somehow might implicate the First Amendment in the year of our lord 2019.

Consider this another of the many ways in which she and Trump are alike. He too went to court recently claiming that he had every right to send the trolls populating his Twitter replies packing via the block feature. Twitter is a private entity, is it not? The blocked trolls can still see Trump’s tweets by logging out of their accounts and viewing his publicly available Twitter account homepage, can they not? Well, then, how the hell are anyone’s First Amendment rights being violated by blocking them?

He made that case to the Second Circuit — and lost, just last month. AOC will lose too if she’s stupid or stubborn enough to force a lawsuit about it.

This dispute started with a letter sent to her by Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute, the same outfit that beat Trump in court. Maybe you haven’t heard, said the Institute, but it’s now the law that politicians who use their Twitter accounts to engage extensively on official/policy matters are operating a “public forum.” And public forums are covered by the First Amendment, which means you’re not allowed to discriminate against people based on their viewpoint. No blocking allowed.

Westlake Legal Group 1-3 AOC: I have every right to block your harassing tweets tweets The Blog ocasio-cortez Knight First Amendment Institute harassment Free Speech First Amendment Columbia University block AOC  Westlake Legal Group 2-2 AOC: I have every right to block your harassing tweets tweets The Blog ocasio-cortez Knight First Amendment Institute harassment Free Speech First Amendment Columbia University block AOC

Until now, Ocasio-Cortez’s pitifully lame defense has been that the AOC Twitter account which five million people follow isn’t her “official” account. The official account is RepAOC — which has all of 188,000 followers or so and is updated infrequently. That’s the public forum, she claims. The AOC account she uses every day for political matters various and sundry is a personal account and therefore shouldn’t be subject to First Amendment restrictions. Trump made the same argument to the Second Circuit, though, and they laughed him off. Right, he has an official POTUS Twitter account in addition to the realDonaldTrump account that the entire world reads, but he can’t duck the reality that he’s running a public forum on his main account simply by designating some other, less newsworthy account his official one. We have to look at how an account is being used to decide if it’s a public forum, said the Second Circuit:

Westlake Legal Group 3-1 AOC: I have every right to block your harassing tweets tweets The Blog ocasio-cortez Knight First Amendment Institute harassment Free Speech First Amendment Columbia University block AOC  Westlake Legal Group 4 AOC: I have every right to block your harassing tweets tweets The Blog ocasio-cortez Knight First Amendment Institute harassment Free Speech First Amendment Columbia University block AOC  Westlake Legal Group 5 AOC: I have every right to block your harassing tweets tweets The Blog ocasio-cortez Knight First Amendment Institute harassment Free Speech First Amendment Columbia University block AOC

Virtually all of that is true for Ocasio-Cortez and her AOC account. She operates it personally, her staff has claimed, and her Twitter bio makes clear that it belongs to a federal legislator: “Congresswoman for NY-14 (the Bronx & Queens).” The account is her main conduit for communicating with the public about congressional business, including votes on particular bills. And she too uses “likes” and “retweets” copiously to signal agreement with the political opinions of others. The only potentially meaningful difference between Trump’s account and hers is that his staff have acknowledged that he conducts “official” business from the account, but that difference may be due more to a distinction in their offices than in how they’re using the platform. Trump can act unilaterally as executive; Ocasio-Cortez, a legislator, can’t. But by using her account to build public support for and against specific bills, she’s also performing a quasi-official duty of her job through her account.

Bottom line: She’s going to lose in court if this ends up there and anyone who’s read the Second Circuit opinion would know that. So … why is she insisting on fighting the Knight Institute on this?

The idea that “harassment is not a viewpoint” for First Amendment purposes is reminiscent of some progressives’ mistaken belief that “hate speech isn’t free speech.” Extreme forms of harassment, like true threats, aren’t protected speech. Petty forms, like tweeting at AOC that she’s a dimwitted commie symp, are. “Harassment” is a bro-o-ad term; doubtless Trump would dub every unflattering comment about him as “harassment” if he thought he could use that as a First Amendment workaround. If Ocasio-Cortez believes that certain nasty tweets at her rise to the level of criminal harassment, she should report them to the FBI. Otherwise, what’s left to say?

The punchline here is that if you know anything about Twitter you know that AOC can easily achieve her goal of tuning out trolls without blocking anyone. That’s what the “mute” function is for. Simply by muting instead of blocking, she can instantly exclude all tweets from a trollish user from her “replies” column while ensuring that that user can continue to see and interact with her own tweets, which is what the Second Circuit was worried about in Trump’s case. She’s supposed to be the most savvy social-media user in all of government. How is it that she doesn’t understand that this simple solution is available to her? Any casual Twitter user would know.

The post AOC: I have every right to block your harassing tweets appeared first on Hot Air.

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2nd Circuit affirms: Trump’s Twitter blocks are “unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination”

Westlake Legal Group TrumpTwitter 2nd Circuit affirms: Trump’s Twitter blocks are “unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination” twitter The Blog second circuit First Amendment donald trump block

When Donald Trump first created the @realDonaldTrump account in 2009, he could feel free to block anyone he wanted for any reason. After he leaves office, the 2nd Circuit ruled today, he can go back to arbitrarily granting access to his stream of consciousness feed. However, the court unanimously upheld a ruling that declared the Twitter account a public vehicle for official business while Trump is in office — and blocks an unconstitutional manner of viewpoint discrimination.

Ken Darroch will no doubt be relieved:

President Trump cannot block his critics from the Twitter feed he regularly uses to communicate with the public, a federal appeals court said Tuesday, in a case with implications for how elected officials nationwide interact with constituents on social media.

The decision from the New York-based appeals court upholds an earlier ruling that Trump violated the First Amendment when he blocked individual users critical of the president or his policies.

“The First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees,” wrote Judge Barrington D. Parker in the unanimous decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

It’s not just that Trump is president, Parker wrote in the decision. It’s that the @realDonaldTrump account has become a prominent avenue for public information in his administration. Indeed, having a paid White House staffer help operate it makes it into an official venue that must remain open to all, at least while Trump is president:

Moreover, the Account is one of the White House’s main vehicles for
conducting official business. The President operates the Account with the assistance of defendant Daniel Scavino, the White House Director of Social Media and Assistant to the President. The President and his aides have characterized tweets from the Account as official statements of the President. For example, the President used the Account to announce the nomination of Christopher Wray as FBI director and to announce the administration’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military.  The President used the Account to first announce that he had fired Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and replaced him with General John Kelly.  President Trump also used the Account to inform the public about his discussions with the South Korean president concerning North Korea’s nuclear program and about his decision to sell sophisticated military hardware to Japan and South Korea.  …

After concluding that the defendants had created a public forum in the interactive space of the Account, the court concluded that, by blocking the Individual Plaintiffs because of their expressed political views, the government had engaged in viewpoint discrimination.  Id. at 577.  Finally, the court held that the blocking of the Individual Plaintiffs violated the Knight Institute’s right to read the replies of the Individual Plaintiffs which they cannot post because they are blocked.

In other words, Trump can’t eat his public cake and have it privately as well.

Still, this seems needlessly overthought and overwrought. The purpose of the First Amendment is to prevent a prior restraint of speech by Congress, the executive branch, and the states, especially regarding political speech. Does a Twitter block really have a silencing effect on speech? Of course not; the plaintiffs can speak all they wish on Twitter. It doesn’t really even prevent them from knowing the content of Trump’s speech even on Twitter, which is widely reported in other outlets. There is more risk to free speech from Twitter itself and its arbitrary speech codes than there is from a presidential account blocking trolls from its feed. The blocked accounts can tweet on their own from those reports, which Knight Institute can then read if they have any real interest in those responses.

It’s a silly enough case that the administration might just decide to cut its losses at this point and drop the matter. It would be interesting to get a Supreme Court ruling on this, even if it’s to deny cert on an appeal of this ruling. It would be nice to see the top court remind everyone that social media platforms are not nearly as significant as everyone — including federal judges — make them out to be. Casting a block as some sort of prior restraint or Siberian exile from free speech is absurd, and the Supreme Court deserves an opportunity to set a realistic perspective on social media interaction.

However, let’s also give the court credit for much wisdom in its concluding paragraph. Power Line’s Scott Johnson hopes that universities and municipal authorities are paying attention, emphasis mine:

The irony in all of this is that we write at a time in the history of this nation when the conduct of our government and its officials is subject to wide‐open, robust debate. This debate encompasses an extraordinarily broad range of ideas and viewpoints and generates a level of passion and intensity the likes of which have rarely been seen. This debate, as uncomfortable and as unpleasant as it frequently may be, is nonetheless a good thing. In resolving this appeal, we remind the litigants and the public that if the First Amendment means anything, it means that the best response to disfavored speech on matters of public concern is more speech, not less.

That’s very true — but it doesn’t necessarily follow that I’m forced to listen to it, either, nor are public officials. The First Amendment guarantees the right to speak, not to an audience.

The post 2nd Circuit affirms: Trump’s Twitter blocks are “unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination” appeared first on Hot Air.

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California judge blocks even more border wall construction

Westlake Legal Group trump-wall California judge blocks even more border wall construction The Blog Texas mexican border injunction California Border wall block

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An Obama appointee judge in California issues an injunction to stop the military from constructing new sections of walls and barriers along the Mexican border. Sound familiar? It should because Northern California District Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. did precisely that back in May, blocking the construction of roughly 50 miles of wall in Texas and Arizona. Well, he’s back. And this time he’s done the exact same thing for an additional 79 miles of wall construction in California and Arizona. And his highly dubious reasoning hasn’t changed a bit. (WaPo)

A federal judge on Friday expanded a ban on construction of President Trump’s signature southern border wall that would have used money secured under his declaration of a national emergency, but that Congress never approved for the purpose.

U.S. District Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr., of Oakland, Calif., blocked construction on four of the administration’s highest-priority projects on the U.S.-Mexico border spanning 79 miles near El Centro, Calif., and Tucson. The Pentagon had moved to fund the projects using $1. 5 billion transferred into a Defense Department counterdrug program from military pay and training accounts.

In his order granting a permanent halt on the construction, Gilliam also cleared the path for an immediate appeal.

It’s good that the judge “cleared the path” for an immediate appeal because both of these decisions are badly in need of a fresh look further up the line. Gilliam is once again citing “Congress’s ‘absolute’ control over federal expenditures” in his reasoning, but these weren’t requests for new allocations of funding. Congress already approved that money to go to the Department of Defense two years ago.

As to what the military does with the funding, plans change all the time as the situation demands. And it’s flatly incorrect for the judge to say that the White House had “illegally shifted money” around to do this. As has been pointed out repeatedly, Title 10, Section 2808 allows for such allocations involving construction projects during a declared emergency.

But even if you disagree with the emergency declaration or even if it hadn’t been declared, the President is authorized to assign such military spending and manpower to construct a wall. Under Title 10, Section 284, subsection (b)(7), the military can be employed for the purpose of “construction of roads and fences and installation of lighting to block drug smuggling corridors across international boundaries” provided the work being done is no more than 25 miles from the border or outside the border.

Keep in mind that only a few weeks ago, a different federal judge rejected a separate suit brought by House Democrats attempting to the exact same thing and for the same stated reasons. In doing so, he cited the exact same sections of federal code I linked to in the previous paragraph. Since at least two courts are making opposite calls on the same question, it needs to be booted up the chain, and the quicker the better.

The post California judge blocks even more border wall construction appeared first on Hot Air.

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“Ponytail girl” blocking press access to Biden

Westlake Legal Group ponytail-girl-blocking-press-access-to-biden “Ponytail girl” blocking press access to Biden The Blog press corps Joe Biden block access

Westlake Legal Group BidenGirl “Ponytail girl” blocking press access to Biden The Blog press corps Joe Biden block access

This is a story that first cropped up on Wednesday, but it seems to be turning into a repeating pattern. What’s going on with Joe Biden and the press corps these days? You would think that the guy with a massive lead in the polls and some of the highest favorability numbers would be eager to have his smiling face on every cable news show and his inspirational quotes being repeated ad nauseam. But we’re continuing to hear stories about how Biden’s campaign staff has been bullying reporters, blocking camera shots and hustling him away without taking any questions. At a recent event in Iowa, one female staffer with a ponytail was accused by videographer Marcus DiPaola of physically blocking access to the candidate and getting in their “personal space” to prevent filming or questions. (Free Beacon)

A freelance reporter covering Joe Biden’s presidential campaign launch says the campaign has gotten physical in its attempts to block the press from questioning the former vice president.

Marcus DiPaola, a videographer who was on the trail with Biden Wednesday night in Iowa, used his Twitter account to voice complaints from multiple members of the press regarding poor treatment from campaign staff, which was reportedly blocking reporters from asking questions and taking photographs of anyone who objected…

“A different reporter just told me that yesterday a staff member physically put their body between the reporter and @JoeBiden,” he wrote. “The reporter said they weren’t even that close and that there were several supporters between the reporter and Biden.”

This is some bizarre behavior. After the event in Des Moines, Biden looked more like somebody on the run from the cops than a candidate on the campaign trail. And his staffers clearly had their marching orders in advance because they were busy hustling him away and trying to shove the press around. In a rather creepy moment, one reporter (who chose to remain anonymous) told DiPaola that the woman referenced above got so close to them that they could “smell her ponytail.”

Not for nothing, but the reporters might want to avoid references to sniffing women’s hair, particularly when you’re covering Joe Biden. Still, this definitely seems like hostility toward the press and an effort to limit their access. Isn’t that what Donald Trump is always accused of? I thought that was “a bad thing.”

The situation seemed to deteriorate from there. As the Biden team tried to make their way to their vehicles to flee the area, “Ponytail Girl” and the other staffers attempted to order the press to clear out of a public parking lot.

They finally got some video, but you can see “Ponytail Girl” steering Biden toward his vehicle and standing in front of the cameras. And that was only after they tried sneaking out through a tunnel and an adjacent restaurant.

What’s going on with Biden’s staff? Are they just taking a page from Hillary Clinton’s playbook? (You’ll recall during the 2016 campaign when she had her staffers literally rope the press off in a corral.) Of course, when you stop to think about it, being the frontrunner comes with its own handicaps in some regards. You really have nowhere to go but down at this point. Particularly given how gaffe-prone Biden has been over the years (to put it mildly), perhaps the staff is just trying to stop him from putting his foot in his mouth yet again and force him to stick to the program. Too many unscripted moments for Biden probably give his entire staff ulcers.

We should keep in mind that this isn’t a first for Biden’s staff, however. In one of their more famous moments, they locked an Orlando Sentinel reporter in a closet. By comparison, shoving some reporters around in a parking lot probably looks rather tame.

The post “Ponytail girl” blocking press access to Biden appeared first on Hot Air.

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