Whining Politicians Have No First Amendment Right To Twitter, Facebook

 

BY SAM FIELDS

 

 

 

Imagine if printed a defamatory news article about you and, along with suing the author and the newspaper, you were permitted to sue the printer, the paper and the guy who made the printing press.

At the same time newspapers were legally required to publish anything you sent them.

What would you call the people who both contradictory laws?

A minority of Democrats and practically all Republicans!

A bipartisan group of politicians are boiling mad at Facebook, Twitter and such social media sites.

Republicans claim the social media outlets are violating their First Amendment rights by censoring their comments as false and seditious.  Democrats complain the sites are hotbeds of racist, anti-Semitic and downright anti-American garbage.

The pols want to make the deep-pocketed sites pay!

Let’s start with a basic understanding of what the First Amendment’s “freedom of speech” and the “press” clause does not cover.

First Amendment involves government control of speech.  The Amendment has no control over a private business like Facebook and Twitter. The Amendment can not force a private business to print anything such as the dangerous mutterings of former President Donald J.Trump or the wacko ramblings of U. S. Senator Josh Hawley, who reportedly went to Yale Law School and should know better.

Facebook and Twitter can’t be touched by the First Amendment.

But there is Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act (CDA).

Section 230 gives immunity to internet platforms like Facebook or Twitter from lawsuits resulting from defamatory posts by their users.  It does not protect the person who posts the defamation, nor does it protect that person from being revealed by the platform operator.

Section 230 can be changed by a vote of Congress.

Donald Trump, the “King of Defamatory Tweets”,  wants Section 230 eliminated, especially now that he has been banned from Twitter. Rightwing organizations like the Heritage Foundation want to limit Section 230’s immunity and make it renewable every seven years.

Democrats are not “holier than thou”.

In a January 2020 interview with the New York Times, President Joe Biden talked about eliminating Section 230. Democratic U. S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has floated the idea of withdrawing Section 230’s protection for racist rants.

If any of these ideas were enacted into law the only certainty is that there would be an exponential growth in libel lawsuits against deep pockets like Facebook, Instagram and Browardbeat.  (just kidding Buddy).

It would be “The Lawyers Full Employment Act.”

And it would make no more sense than being able to sue the Post Office for delivering defamatory letters, Sprint because of a defamatory robocall or Western Union over a telegram…do they still have telegrams?

 

(Sam Fields is a Plantation lawyer and a veteran Democratic activist.)

 

 



15 Responses to “Whining Politicians Have No First Amendment Right To Twitter, Facebook”

  1. Whack-a-mole says:

    You don’t hafta study law to figger this stuff out — we learned about Miami Herald v. Tornillo in the first coupla weeks at J school!

    FROM BUDDY:

    Pat Tornillo was a Florida House candidate in Dade County and the Miami Herald published editorials criticizing his candidacy. Using Florida’s “right of reply” law which required newspapers to print statements from any candidate criticized, Tornillo sued. The Herald had refused print his reply to the editorials.

    Amazingly the Florida Supreme Court upheld the law. But the U. S. Supreme Court in 1974 unanimously overturned the law and ruled it violated the First Amendment’s guarantee of a free press. The Court said a publication can not be compelled to print what a government wants.

    Tornillo, who led the United Teachers of Dade for four decades, ended his career in prison after being convicted of stealing millions of dollars from the union for personal expenses including Caribbean vacations. After 22 months behind bars, he finally got The Herald to publish something he wrote: An apology to the teachers and children of Dade County for swindling the money.

  2. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    Explain to me how ‘conservative’ Republicans argue FREE ENTERPRISE FREE MARKETS. ‘Business rights’ THEN BLAST PRIVATELY OWNED MEDIA FROM THE NATIONAL NETWORKS, TWITTER, FACEBOOK, GOOGLE, etc HAVE NO RIGHTS TO POLICE RACISM n INCITEMENTS TO RIOT? THE BILL OF RIGHTS PROHIBIT GOVERNMENT CENSORSHIP which has NOTHING TO DO WITH PRIVATE ENTIES.

  3. Las Olas Lawyer says:

    Fields is right because Congress can not command Facebook or Twitter to publish Trump. Only Trump’s supporters can pressure by boycotting advertisers, boycotting the sites and moving to other places.

  4. City activist Robert walsh says:

    To keep it simple in regards to your point etc u can not yell fire in a movie theater.

  5. Sam the Sham says:

    So, Trump is blamed for the breach of the Capital when that action was planned days and weeks in advance and started before the Former President even began to speak?

    Social media demands the protection of Section 230, basically because the volume of what it publishes is greater than it can edit. Yet that is demonstrably untrue as it edits conservatives all the time. Conservative so called Hate Speech, Racist verbiage and “insurrection” is edited out while Democrats, leftist and murdering foreign dictators get to spew their vile thoughts ad nauseum.

    It would be very interesting if an independent attorney general prosecuted Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon under RICO statutes for their destruction of social media sites like Parler.

  6. City activist Robert walsh says:

    Like I stated .U can’t tell fire in a movie theater.Yes,u can say what u want however,we r a nation of laws.These rioters in DC their rational is warped.U can’t storm a public governmental bldg or vandalize.And this notion they r protected by their first amend.rghts is ludacris.

  7. Count LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    Sam the Sham either KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT LAW or is THE LIN WOOD OF FLORIDA. SHAM doesn’t know Donald, I do. Donald won’t let any of “his supporters” like Sham in the driveway let alone his house. Pathetic

  8. Sam the Sham says:

    No one is suggesting that the so called rioters, or should I use the already accepted term (in similar circumstances) of “Mostly Peaceful Protestors” should not be held responsible for their actions. But that is not the issue of discussion in Sam’s column.

  9. Bob says:

    Your analogy is false. The US Mail and Verizon have business models that simply deliver what others put into the system. Facebook, however, earns billions by manipulating and amplifying the offensive speech of others as a way to gin up its data mining and advertising revenues. It’s the difference between a newspaper and the printing press: one takes part in the content of the speech being printed, the other does not.

  10. James Salem says:

    Hi Sam, I am curious about something. You said in your article that “The Amendment has no control over a private business like Facebook and Twitter. The Amendment can not force a private business to print anything” Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver, Colo. refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple and was taken to court. The court ruled that just because he was a private business that he could not discriminate and had to make the cake. Sam, are you in favor of making private businesses serve everyone or be allowed to turn down those with whom they disagree? Asking for a friend.

    FROM BUDDY:

    I’ll ask Sam Fields.

  11. SAM FIELDS says:

    When you read the SCOTUS opinions (everyone had something to say) on Masterpiece you quickly conclude that the case was not decided on a Constitutional principle.

    Courts, and the SC in particular like to decide cases at the lowest level rather than go to the Constitution.

    In this case they sent the case back to Colorado chastising The Colorado Civil Rights Commission for not being respectful enough to both Phillips and the gay couple.

    They did not decide the case based on any Constitutional principles.

    ——————————–

    Here is a question: What is the one Constitutional Amendment that creates a private right of action against other private parties?????????????

  12. Sam fields says:

    Dear sham
    It does not matter whether he originated the conspiracy it only matters if he advanced it
    It doesn’t matter if he did not know the people who originated the conspiracy to sedition
    Under the long established “wheel theory“ The “spokes“ don’t even have to know each other as long as they are advancing the crime
    He and congressman Mo Brooks, Trump junior and Rudy Kazootie We’re all firing up the crowd with language that could reasonably and be interpreted as Promoting Imminent violence
    Numerous invaders were saying that Donald Trump told him to do this

    Sounds like a jury question To me

  13. Sam the Sham says:

    Dear Count Chocula,

    You are correct. No I am not Lin Wood, I am not a lawyer, but I do know common sense, and I know that the oft used phrase, “The Law is an ASS” is accurate. I also know your use of class warfare is the most pathetic of all.

    Sam,

    The “other Spokes”, Mo Brooks, Trump jr and Rudy, are not being charged with anything. Only President Trump is being charged and will have a Kangaroo Court jury of senators. So the jury question is so feeble it has to be brought up in this wholly unconstitutional senate trial. I think the odds are better than 50-50 that the trial will never take place.

  14. Buddy says:

    The Philadelphia Inquirer.com, sick of offensive comments dominating its web site, decided to close the comments section off Feb. 1:

    https://www.inquirer.com/about/philadelphia-inquirer-comments-section-changes-20210201.html

  15. Sam the Sham says:

    Dear Buddy,

    In contrast to the Philly Inquirer, I think that the comments here are frequently just as good as the articles. Not to denigrate you or your guest writers, I just think the level of your commenters is smarter than the average bear.

    In addition, think how poorer the world would be without my grand witticisms.

    But honestly, it is refreshing in this age of censors and cancel culture, to find honest, un-edited opinions.

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