Is politicians' blocking of Twitter followers suppression of free speech?


The U.S. president is famous for his use of Twitter, and many other politicians have adopted the social media platform to reach vast numbers. But when they get responses they dislike, some are also blocking followers.

President Donald J. Trump unblocked seven followers this week, the latest in a series of unblockings ordered by a New York court last May (Reuters).

In the UK, Caroline Nokes, a minister in Theresa May’s government, has blocked people tweeting her to request details of pending immigration cases (Guardian).

The new Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, is well known for blocking many people from his Twitter feed. Australia does not have explicit freedom of speech laws, but the High Court has ruled in specific circumstances that an implied freedom of political communication does apply.

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U.S. Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled in May that blocking Twitter users violated the First Amendment right to free speech. The president had unblocked some of his critical followers already, but a case was taken requiring him to unblock more, which he did in June and earlier this month (August). Trump has more than 54 million followers.

In other cases, one Texas Congressman blocked so many followers that a T-shirt was created complaining of such actions. Last February, the Washington Post reported that Maryland governor Larry Hogan had blocked 450 Twitter followers between 2015 and 2017.

Questions to be answered, and add more:

  • Have you ever been blocked? Did this contravene your rights?
  • What are the legal arguments for and against Twitter blockings and the right to free speech?
  • Should there be a “right to ignore”?
  • How do the examples vary in different countries/territories?
  • Add more examples here:
  • Does Twitter, as a business, have a right to suspend this right for users of their platform?
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