Justice Clarence Thomas says Supreme Court will “soon have no choice” but to address Big Tech’s power over speech

Justice Clarence Thomas says Supreme Court will “soon have no choice” but to address Big Tech’s power over speech
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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The Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit relating to former President Donald Trump’s use of his Twitter account, in regards to blocking his haters. In 2019, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared it unconstitutional for the president to block individuals from viewing an official social media account used to announce government policies. The Justice Department appealed the ruling. 

On Monday, the Supreme Court directed the Second Circuit Court to dismiss the case as moot, following recommendations by Trump’s Justice Department prior to President Biden’s inauguration in January. 

“That transition will moot this case, as then-President Biden will have no ability to control the use of Donald J. Trump’s personal Twitter account,” the DOJ said at the time, reports the Wall Street Journal.

As BeckerNews reports: “Twitter users had filed the case Knight First Amendment Institute v. Trump in 2017, which became Knight First Amendment Institute v. Biden in 2021. The claimants argued that the former president had violated their First Amendment rights by blocking their user accounts. While Trump tweeted from his personal account, the Twitter users argued that he had used it in a presidential capacity by releasing official statements, thus making it a ‘public forum.’ In 2018, a judge in New York had ruled that the president’s actions were unconstitutional.” 

More to the point, Justice Clarence Thomas argued in his concurring opinion that digital and social media platforms now wield unprecedented amounts of concentrated political power, which the nation’s highest court will have to address. 

“Today’s digital platforms provide avenues for historically unprecedented amounts of speech, including speech by government actors,” Thomas wrote. “Also unprecedented, however, is the concentrated control of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties. We will soon have no choice but to address how our legal doctrines apply to highly concentrated, privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms.”

“Applying old doctrines to new digital platforms is rarely straightforward,” Thomas continued. “Respondents have a point, for example, that some aspects of Mr. Trump’s account resemble a constitutionally protected public forum. But it seems rather odd to say that something is a government forum when a private company has unrestricted authority to do away with it.”

“This is not the first or only case to raise issues about digital platforms,” Thomas added. “While this case involves a suit against a public official, the Court properly rejects today a separate petition alleging that digital platforms, not individuals on those platforms, violated public accommodations laws, the First Amendment, and antitrust laws.”

Justice Thomas’ opinions reflect a growing concern among the legislature and the courts about the amount of concentrated power wielded by Big Tech giants such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook. For actions to be taken against these massive corporations, lawmakers and states will have to bring legal action against Silicon Valley.

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