Monday, July 16, 2018

The Court of Public Opinion and the Public Square

The Court of Public Opinion and the Public Square
by Angela Smith, National Coordinator/Co-Founder of HEAL

In order to celebrate the 4th of July, HEAL chose to throw an approximately 10-day "comedy roast" on our Twitter and Youtube accounts.  Our Twitter accounts are at http://www.twitter.com/heal247  and http://www.twitter.com/Got2LoveTheFuzz.  And, our Youtube account is at http://www.youtube.com/HEALwantsTEENliberty.  For this satirical and artistic social media project, we chose to target corruption in politics and the media.  Most everyone took our "roasting" in stride.  However, the @heal247 account was restricted on the 4th of July, amounting to the violation of our first amendment rights.  The @Got2LoveTheFuzz account was restricted on July 6th, 2018.  Since that time, both accounts have remained virtually falsely imprisoned.  And, this is without due process of law, which makes it more than one constitutional liberty infringement.

The legal arguments for the restoration of the HEAL Twitter accounts are many.  First, let us establish that there is a social construct known as the Court of Public Opinion.[1]  There is debate about whether the public should be permitted to share opinions since it may lead to "mob justice" and "revenge".[2]  However, this is the United States of America and it is my understanding that the first amendment protects the rights of all citizens to free speech and expression as well as the right to air grievances in the public square.  So, the Court of Public Opinion is what some may see as a "necessary evil" in a free and democratic society.


The second point I'll make here is regarding social media such as Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and similar sites amounting to virtual public squares.  A recent article in the Washington Examiner states that Twitter's censorship of accounts may be unconstitutional.[1]  And, that is our primary contention regarding the censorship of our accounts at this time.  However, we did find evidence suggesting that Twitter solely censored as a result of an individual complaint regarding the content of some of our tweets during the "comedy roast".  So, the issue may be more with Twitter's policies regarding handling complaints rather than with any algorithm or blind censorship.  Twitter should accept that, given its partnership with the Library of Congress to store and track all tweets for the public record, it makes it by design a virtual public square.[2]  Twitter's hypocrisy in suing the US Government for violating its first amendment rights[3] while violating those of its users is beyond measure.

It seems to me that if you are of particularly thin skin, you should avoid public interaction.  There are many unpleasant people who say and do unpleasant things as a matter of right because of the nature of freedom.  However, infringing on anyone's right to free speech, no matter how unpopular their belief or expression may be, is itself unconstitutional and a violation of the laws of the United States of America.  Therefore, I would heartily suggest Twitter revise its policies to disallow reporting of tweets for any offense or statement made and simply allow individuals to block (avoid viewing/alerts) from accounts they do not like.  If that does not satisfy the individuals who are offended, advise them they can always choose to leave the platform if they find free speech and expression too difficult to accept.

We can provide the evidence for the basis of every tweet made on our account, including any referencing the Petroleum Club.  And, I have contacted the media through various channels and we have filed a legal complaint regarding this violation.  It is our understanding the offending parties have three weeks to respond.  Stay tuned to see if our accounts are restored and free speech and expression are protected for all Americans.


[The footnotes did not transfer properly to this format.  Sorry for any confusion.]

[1] https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/twitters-censorship-may-be-unconstitutional
[2] https://blogs.loc.gov/loc/2010/04/how-tweet-it-is-library-acquires-entire-twitter-archive/
[3] https://www.wired.com/2014/10/twitter-sues-government/




[1] https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=202112715
[2] https://www.wired.com/2013/02/court-of-public-opinion/







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