The US Supreme Court Monday dismissed a case stemming from former president Donald Trump’s Twitter account as moot. The lawsuit was filed after Trump blocked Twitter users from accessing his account.
The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit had held that Trump’s Twitter account constituted a public forum, and as such, he had violated the First Amendment by blocking users. The Supreme Court vacated that judgment.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion. While he agreed that the lawsuit was moot because the presidential administration had changed, he found the free speech issues raised by the case to be troubling.
Justice Thomas pointed out that while the lawsuit focused on Trump’s ability to block other users, the real power imbalance stemmed from a social media network’s ability to entirely block users, as Twitter did with Trump’s account. He stated, “As Twitter made clear, the right to cut off speech lies most powerfully in the hands of private digital platforms.”
Trump’s account was suspended by Twitter in the wake of the Capitol insurrection that resulted in five deaths. Conservatives have increasingly criticized social media companies for fact-checking and blocking conservative politicians and media personalities.
In the rest of his opinion, Justice Thomas addressed the Second Circuit opinion and discussed questions such as how the First Amendment may pertain to private social media companies which amplify government and public voices. He concluded with, “This petition, unfortunately, affords us no opportunity to confront [these questions].”