Government Tweets, Government Speech: The First Amendment Implications of Government Trolling
The @realDonaldTrump Twitter handle communicates relevant, government-related information often enough that it has become closely identified with the government by media outlets and the public. For these reasons, @realDonaldTrump has transformed into government speech. With that transformation, the impact of @realDonaldTrump takes on a constitutional dimension. A tweet from @realDonaldTrump that is intended to troll a detractor no longer remains a dispute between private individuals. Instead, it implicates the First Amendment. While the Supreme Court has determined that the First Amendment does not impose viewpoint neutrality upon the government when it speaks, the Court has suggested there are some constitutional limits on the government’s freedom to say what it will.10 The Free Speech Clause is one of those limits. It prohibits the government from speech that interferes with an individual’s First Amendment rights. As a result, a tweet from @realDonaldTrump that discourages critics from engaging in their own expressive activity exceeds the government’s authority to choose its own message and violates the First Amendment.