Squished expression and the President of the United States

Is Trump’s Twitter a Public Forum and the Limits of the Law by Eric Segall has me thinking quite a a bit about this question:


I think about the Presidential Records Act and what it says about the things the President does in his official capacity. I think about the fact that the @RealDonaldTrump is a different account than @POTUS and I think… why? The President is always the President. And so the arguments in the Dorf on Law article are quite compelling:

Although his lawyer argued to the contrary on Thursday, Trump clearly uses Twitter for official business. Sean Spicer once said that the President considers his tweets “the official business of the United States.” However, the fact that Trump uses Twitter officially does not come close to answering the question whether he can block people from his account. Trump uses his phone and his email for official business also, but that doesn’t mean he has to take phone calls or let any member of the public e-mail him.

These tools we rely on, twitter in this case, are made of inputs and technology. And they don’t map easily into our laws. I think about how constrained they are by the various bits of HTML that they’re made of. I remember reading something, possibly written by the late Dean Allen, about the fact that content management systems filter our expression through HTML inputs in ways that are highly constrained.

We use that <textarea> to enter some text and it gets folded, spindled, and mutilated in ways that may tend to squish the life out of our expression. I don’t like that, but here we are. Our expression is mutilated by Facebook’s “What’s on your Mind, Joe

…or twitter’s “What’s happening:”

and marvel at how limiting and yet also empowering this is to my free-expression.

It’s how we get amplified. It’s how we partiocipate in the public sphere. We publish. We are all writers. The President is no different, terrifyingly.

I have no answers today. The world of this self-publishing is a world of commercial interests and no filters and inadequate supervision and there’s little we are empowered to do about it.

And with that, thanks for reading.

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