Experts address First Amendment with Trump Twitter ban, crackdown on some apps

Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 4:11 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - With President Donald Trump’s account removed from Twitter and some social media apps like Parler now offline, unavailable in the app stores of major companies, comes a widespread debate about the First Amendment and how it applies to what you post on social media. Legal experts say when it comes to recent hot-button issues concerning the president’s ban from Twitter and access to apps like Parler blocked, there are no violations of the First Amendment.

The First Amendment protects your right to free speech from the government, but not everything you say or type is included.

“Over the years, courts have determined that certain categories of speech are not protected by the First Amendment. One of those is incitement,” First Amendment Attorney Max Kautsch explained.

Speech that actively and intentionally causes violence, is threatening, defamatory, or indecent could result in criminal or civil charges. That also applies to the words you post online.

Salina Police Chief Brad Nelson said recently, some threatening social media posts have been brought to his department’s attention. But before officers pursue action, it must be reported, like any other crime.

“We, the police would have to investigate to determine (if) there’s probable cause to believe a criminal offense has taken place,” Chief Nelson said. “If we do believe that to have occurred, we’d refer to our Saline County Attorney who would decide on necessary charges.”

Local law enforcement does not actively monitor social media, Nelson said.

Even if your posts or tweets don’t fall under the categories of intentionally causing violence, being threatening, or defamatory, you could still face consequences, even if you’re not in legal trouble. Social-media websites do have to right to remove content, or even to take down your profile. That’s because websites like Facebook are private companies that can make their own rules. When you create an account, you agree to these rules, even if you scrolled through the terms without reading them. If you see a post that you think is dangerous, you need to report it, Chief Nelson said, and you can protect yourself online by limiting the amount of personal information on your profile.

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