Twitter needs regulation at least according to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. According to The Verge Thomas has gone so far as to lay out a comprehensive constitutional framework for regulating the social media platform. Twitter has seemed to find itself under fire a lot these days.
The conservative Supreme Court Justice is writing this in response to a case brought up in 2017 by Columbia University Knight First Amendment Institute. The institute in this case was arguing that then President Trump was violating the First Amendment by blocking critics on Twitter.
In 2019 the federal appeals court ruled in favor of the Knight First Amendment Institute. The Biden administration is not contesting the ruling. As a result, the case was not going to continue. However, because President Trump did file an appeal the court is obligated to respond.
With this case brought back up, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has the opportunity to weigh in on it. The Justice sees issues facing social media platforms. His response revolves primarily around Twitter and its decision to ban President Trump on its platform. The ban came after the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021.
It is important to point out that the President was in fact banned from Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. All three of the platforms banned the President for his breaking rules of using the platform for inciting violence.
The Knight First Amendment Institute case is giving Justice Thomas the ammo to figure out how to legally restrain Twitter. The framework is drawn out over 12 pages in which Thomas details how lawmakers can go about restraining the platform.
The process of restraining Twitter isn’t the hard part. But, restraining Twitter without violating the First Amendment is the goal here.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wants to regulate Twitter
Thomas is attacking this hurdle by relying on the common carrier designations and the English common law rules around the right to exclude customers from public accommodations.
The specific way Thomas is focusing on involves the scale of Twitter and other social media platforms. One example of this is the Telecommunications Act which prevents phone companies from blocking specific people from phone service.
If that fails then lawmakers could craft a statute similar to the public accommodations clause of the Civil Rights Act. This prevents hotels and restaurants from barring service on the basis of race or creed.
“Even if digital platforms are not close enough to common carriers, legislatures might still be able to treat digital platforms like places of public accommodation,” Thomas continues. “The similarities between some digital platforms and common carriers or places of public accommodation may give legislators strong arguments for similarly regulating digital platforms.”
Unfortunately, this is not the first time Thomas has used technology-related petitions to bring up social media regulation. Back in October, a similar framework was aiming to cut back Section 230 protections. It is no doubt that Twitter is almost the wild west of the social media world.
Users speak their minds freely more often on Twitter than on other platforms it seems. However, trying to find a way to regulate Twitter will almost definitely attack the First Amendment. But this isn’t the first time lawmakers have taken aim and social media platforms.
Facebook, Twitter, and Google continue to find themselves in hot water when it comes to lawmakers. They have a lot of power, so the argument that they have the responsibility of regulating their platforms can be made. But, doing so can be a slippery slope.