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Trump could face legal trouble for blocking users on Twitter

The group argues the @realDonaldTrump account is a designated public forum.

Jul 11, 2017, 3:12 pm*

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Phillip Tracy

While some people make it their life goal to be blocked on Twitter by President Donald Trump, others think blocking a user for posting criticism on his feed puts the president in violation of the First Amendment.

Lawyers at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University wrote a letter to the White House demanding Trump unblock two users from his Twitter account or face legal action. They argue the president is violating freedom of speech rights by denying users access to a government forum.

“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, executive director at the Knight Institute. “Having opened this forum to all comers, the president can’t exclude people from it merely because he dislikes what they’re saying.”

Though Trump started his account as a public citizen, the lawyers say Trump’s “vigorous” use of Twitter has given U.S. citizens insight into policies, actions, and belief, and is therefore a designated public forum. Under that arrangement, it would be unconstitutional for the president to block anyone from seeing or engaging with his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account. By blocking his critics, Trump makes it difficult for them to see or respond to any of his tweets.

The formal letter identifies the tweets that triggered Trump to block the two users. Only one of them is still posted.

The White House has not responded to the First Amendment group’s letter.

Update 3:13pm CT, July 11: The Knight First Amendment Institute filed suit against President Trump, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and social media director Daniel Scavino, arguing that the White House acts unlawfully when it blocks people from the president’s Twitter account. The suit was filed on behalf of seven people who believe their First Amendment rights are being violated. They claim Trump’s account is a public forum because it provides people important information about the government.

Filed in Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York, the complaint asks the court to declare blocking people from @realDonaldTrump unconstitutional and to reinstate the seven user’s access to Trump’s account.

H/T Associated Press

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*First Published: Jun 6, 2017, 7:24 pm