Politics

Attorneys: Trump Blocking On Twitter Unconstitutional

| by Michael Doherty

A group of lawyers representing Twitter users who have been blocked by President Donald Trump have argued that by blocking them, Trump has violated their First Amendment rights.

The Knight First Amendment Institute has issued a letter to Trump calling on him to unblock American citizens that he has restricted from viewing and responding to his tweets, KTLA reports. The group of free speech attorneys has argued that Trump's Twitter account is a public forum, and that the users were blocked for expressing views that did not align with the administration's.

"Your vigorous use of Twitter to comment about matters mundane as well as momentous has afforded Americans valuable insight into your policies, actions, and beliefs," wrote the group in the letter. "It has also supplied the public with a means of engaging you directly. Your Twitter accounts are forums in which you share your thoughts and decisions as President, and in which millions of people respond, ask questions, and sometimes have those questions answered."

"This Twitter account operates as a 'designated public forum' for First Amendment purposes, and accordingly the viewpoint-based blocking of our clients is unconstitutional," argues the letter. "We ask that you unblock them and any others who have been blocked for similar reasons."

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The clients named in the letter include a user that was blocked after posting, "This is pretty much how the whole world sees you," along with a GIF of Pope Francis looking uncomfortable with the president, and another user who tweeted to the president, "Greetings from Pittsburgh, Sir,” as well as, “Why didn’t you attend your #PittsburghNotParis rally in DC, Sir? #fakeleader."

Both users discovered that they were blocked by the president on Twitter shortly after their posts.

"The government may impose reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions in a designated public forum, but it may not exclude people simply because it disagrees with them," says the letter, asking that Trump or his aides "immediately unblock our clients’ accounts and the accounts of others who have been blocked because of their views."

Katie Fallow, a senior attorney with the group, said this should apply across the board to all officials.

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"While [the letter] relates to our most prominent Twitter user, the principles we seek to vindicate apply to all public officials and public entities that use social media to conduct government business and allow the public to participate," Fallow said.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at a press briefing on June 6 that the president's tweets are considered official statements from the White House.

According to Fallow, if Trump does not unblock users on Twitter, he could potentially face a lawsuit from the Knight First Amendment Institute.

"This is a context in which the Constitution precludes the president from making up his own rules," said the institute's executive director, Jameel Jaffer, according to the Los Angeles Times. "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. Having opened this forum to all comers, the president can't exclude people from it merely because he dislikes what they're saying."

Sources: KTLA, Los Angeles Times, Document Cloud / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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