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As I See It

Does free speech cover Twitter?

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Our founding fathers were pretty smart when the wrote the U.S. Constitution. But they could never envision that people would communicate in 140 characters or less. Twitter, it seems, is how many people communicate today. It seems to be the favorite form of communication for our President. But is the use of Twitter covered by our First Amendment rights to free speech? A new lawsuit argues it is. A lawsuit has been filed by the liberal group One Wisconsin Now against three state legislators. These legislators have official Twitter accounts for their office, and use those accounts to share news about state government and public policy issues. But representatives Robin Vos, John Nygren and Jesse Kremer don’t allow just anyone to follow them on Twitter. The lawmakers have all blocked One Wisconsin Now from commenting on their tweets. The lawsuit argues that is a violation of their free speech rights. They make a good point. These lawmakers and others increasingly use Twitter as a form of communicating with the public. That should include anyone who wants to follow them, even those with whom they disagree politically. It would be no different than blocking opposing views from a public town hall meeting. It should not be acceptable for those who hold public office, whose salaries we pay, to block the public from challenging or responding to them. Free speech does not extend only to those with whom they agree. Our founding fathers would certainly agree with that.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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