A Pennsylvania politician hoping to get elected to the House of Representatives has taken his woes with the coronavirus lockdown to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, with an interesting result that touches on free speech and social platforms.
Republican Danny DeVito has asked the court to stay the enforcement of the executive order by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, who on March 19 placed this US state on lockdown.
In a filing DeVito and other petitioners want the executive order, that has resulted in the closure of all businesses not considered essential as “life-sustaining,” suspended.
DeVito and others point out that Wolf himself has described the effects of the order as “devastating the economy,” and cite further figures and evidence that suggest the reaction to the coronavirus pandemic might throw the country into a recession.
In addition to all that, DeVito, who is campaigning for his seat in the State House, argues that free speech and freedom of assembly granted by the US Constitution are violated by the lockdown measures.
Governor Wolf then filed his response in which he asserted that regarding free speech, the order was “neutral” – despite the fact that it prohibits free assembly and therefore political and other rallies.
Wolf’s reasoning is that because people can “assemble” virtually on online social networks, they have appropriate alternatives and enjoy their rights as before.
Furthermore, Wolf describes these “flourishing” online platforms as having become “a quintessential forum for the exercise of First Amendment rights.”
This “news” is sure to surprise all those whose accounts and or/content have vanished from giant social platforms over the last years without so much as an explanation.
And it will certainly shock those Facebook and Twitter users who have just recently been silenced on these networks for attempting to organize in protest against the lockdowns.
What this means is that those sick and tired of watching their economy and lives go down the drain are denied not only physical, but also digital freedom of assembly. With such action, Twitter and Facebook are effectively invalidating Wolf’s argument. You’re not allowed to protest offline due to the lockdowns and you’re not allowed to protest online because speaking out against the lockdowns on major social platforms is causing accounts to get locked or even banned.
In addition, DeVito accuses Wolf of being an “autocrat and tyrant” who thinks being active on Facebook and Twitter means people are in no need of free speech in public.