-2

I wonder if it is legitimate/constitutional for the White House to turn off their comments on YouTube videos, as they are doing currently. In 2019. Trump was banned from blocking the critics on his Twitter.. Does the same logic apply to the YouTube channel of the White House based on the constitution of U.S. (freedom of speech, etc)?


Recall that the First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prevents the government from making laws which regulate an establishment of religion, or that would prohibit the free exercise of religion, or abridge the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly, or the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.

7
  • 2
    @Trilarion The YouTube channel of White House represents the U.S. federal government. Shouldn't it be interpreted as a public domain embracing the freedom of speech? Otherwise, people would have one less place to criticize the government ("abridge the freedom of speech"). I do believe that personal YouTube channels are private and individual YouTubers should be allowed to do anything on the comments they received.
    – No One
    Feb 24 at 16:10
  • 4
    For what it's worth, you can't leave comments on the White House press release page either. I don't think anyone could reasonably say that the lack of a comment feature there was blocking critics. Why would a lack-of-comments on a different distribution platform be any different? Simply because comments could be allowed but aren't?
    – Bobson
    Feb 24 at 16:18
  • 1
    @Bobson Yes. "Simply because comments could be allowed but aren't?" When you choose to click on the “disable the comments" button, you choose not to hear from the public. On the other hand, building a comment feature on a website without such feature needs a lot of effort (hiring software engineers with government budget), which is much harder.
    – No One
    Feb 24 at 16:40
  • 1
    "as a public domain" No Youtube is not the public domain. It's still only a commercial enterprise. Why should it be something else?
    – Trilarion
    Feb 24 at 17:27
  • 1
    @Trilarion The same argument could be applied to Twitter and yet Trump was still regulated out from blocking people there. Schmuddi's answer addresses this though
    – Flats
    Feb 24 at 18:17

1 Answer 1

12

The New York Times article that you linked is clear what the federal court considered to be the problem with the fact that some users were blocked from interacting with Trump's twitter account (my emphasis):

The First Amendment prohibits an official who uses a social media account for government purposes from excluding people from an “otherwise open online dialogue” because they say things that the official finds objectionable, Judge Parker wrote.

Apparently it is the selectivity of the blocks that the federal court regarded an issue here, not the fact that commenting was restricted in general – only some people were targeted so that they were prevented from voicing their opinions in response to tweets from Trump's account, while others could participate freely in the online conversation (my emphasis):

“We are not persuaded [that Trump's Twitter account was personal and not official in nature],” Judge Parker wrote. “We conclude that the evidence of the official nature of the account is overwhelming. We also conclude that once the president has chosen a platform and opened up its interactive space to millions of users and participants, he may not selectively exclude those whose views he disagrees with.”

Disabling the comment function on a YouTube video for all users doesn't seem to compare to that: By doing so, the video can't be considered an "otherwise open online dialogue" in the first place, and it doesn't "selectively exclude those whose views" the White House disagrees with.

One may choose to argue that that notwithstanding, disabling the comment function is still a violation of the First Amendment. However, this claim cannot be backed up by the court decision against Trump's Twitter account, as the federal court's ruling was based on conditions that do not apply to the YouTube comment section.

3
  • 1
    I agree with "he may not selectively exclude those whose views he disagrees with.” However, based on what I have observed in social media, when a person decides to turn off all comments, his true purpose is also to "exclude those whose views he disagrees with".
    – No One
    Feb 24 at 15:40
  • 2
    @user24711: This may very well be the case. However, you're asking whether the same logic that was used for Trump's Twitter account also applies to the White House YouTube channel – and this is what my post answers: No, the same logic does not apply.
    – Schmuddi
    Feb 24 at 15:42
  • Well, the first sentence of my question is I wonder if it is legitimate/constitutional for the White House to turn off their comments on YouTube videos, as they are doing currently. Anyways, I appreciate your answer!
    – No One
    Feb 24 at 15:44

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .