Wednesday, 22 November, 2017

President Donald Trump sued for blocking Twitter users

Theresa May an Donald Trump Theresa May and Donald Trump Matt Cardy Getty
Howard Terry | 13 July, 2017, 00:38

The Knight First Amendment Institute filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs on Tuesday morning in New York's Southern District, about one month after the organization issued an open letter calling for the president to unblock users who'd replied to the president's tweets with harsh criticisms.

"Though the architects of the Constitution surely didn't contemplate presidential Twitter accounts, they understood that the President must not be allowed to banish views from public discourse simply because he finds them objectionable", said Jameel Jaffer, the Institute's executive director, in a statement at the time.

The federal lawsuit claims Trump's blocks essentially silences his opponents, infringing on their First Amendment rights and keeps them from interacting in a public forum. Sean Spicer and Trump's social-media director Dan Scavino are also named as defendants in the suit.

Those blocked from a Twitter account can not read tweets, respond to them directly, or contribute to the comment threads. Most recently, the White House has forbidden reporters from recording press briefings, an act that journalists across the USA have widely condemned.

"My use of social media is not Presidential - it's MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL", Trump tweeted earlier in July.

The Knight First Amendment Institute, a nonprofit at Columbia University, is asking that Trump's blocking of the plaintiffs be declared unconstitutional; that the plaintiffs' access to the president's tweets be restored and that they not be blocked in the future because of their viewpoints; and that their legal fees be paid.

The seven plaintiffs claim they were blocked by the president or his counselors after critically or ironically responding to Trump's Twitter posts.

By blocking his critics, Trump has excluded them from viewing his tweets, replying to them, or contributing to the discussions that follow from the tweets.

He wondered whether the case would be different if @realDonaldTrump were an official government Twitter page that had banned users for posting negative statements. Tuesday's lawsuit represents seven such Twitter users. The complaint argues that the same sort of considerations that the Supreme Court has given to protecting speech in public forums should extend to the virtual ones now being employed by Trump and other elected officials.

If the president's feed is defined as a "public forum", citizens can not be excluded from viewing his statements and engaging in discussions simply because they disagree.

"The FAKE MSM is working so hard trying to get me not to use Social Media". The amendment says the United States government should not block people from being able to speak freely and assemble peacefully.

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