Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas: Big Tech Doesn’t Have Right to Ban Free Speech

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 5, 2021   |   1:02PM   |   Washington, DC

The Supreme Court issued an order today that President Donald Trump is now free to block whomever he chooses on Twitter, which will be difficult now that the liberal social media web site has banned his account. But an opinion Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas issued is drawing significant attention.

Thomas warned Big Tech that legislatures or the Supreme Court may soon have to step in and stop social media platforms for denying free speech rights to pro-life conservatives — saying places like Facebook and Twitter are silence people “at any time for any or no reason.”

“As Twitter made clear, the right to cut off speech lies most powerfully in the hands of private digital platforms,” Justice Thomas wrote in a separate opinion. “The extent to which that power matters for purposes of the First Amendment and the extent to which that power could lawfully be modified raise interesting and important questions.”

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In the SCOTUS decision itself, the nation’s highest court overturned a ruling from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that sided with people who sued President Trump, when he was president, for blocking their accounts on Twitter. The appeals court had ruled that, as a public official, his account, like others of elected officials, must interact with the public.

In his opinion, Justice Thomas said the rulings is at odds with Twitter’s total control over the company, including its decision to ban Trump earlier this year. Twitter has refused to reinstate President Trump’s account even though he is no longer in the White House.

“It seems rather odd to say that something is a government forum when a private company has unrestricted authority to do away with it,” Justice Thomas wrote. “The disparity between Twitter’s control and Mr. Trump‘s control is stark, to say the least. Mr. Trump blocked several people from interacting with his messages. Twitter barred Mr. Trump not only from interacting with a few users, but removed him from the entire platform.”

“Today’s digital platforms provide avenues for historically unprecedented amounts of speech, including speech by government actors,” Justice Thomas added.