Published: Fri, June 09, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

1st Amendment Lawyers Tell Trump to Un-Block Twitter Users

1st Amendment Lawyers Tell Trump to Un-Block Twitter Users

Before Trump was sworn in as president, multiple other Twitter users said his account had blocked them.

The letter accuses Trump of blocking people because they either mocked or disagreed with him, which the Knight First Amendment Institute deems unconstitutional. But since, as Sean Spicer made clear, his tweets are official proclamations of the President, that means he's cutting off taxpayers from viewing public statements from a government official.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Republican congressional leaders at the White House on June 6, 2017.

Eric Goldman, a Santa Clara University law professor who focuses on internet law, said that previous cases involving politicians blocking users on Facebook (FB.O) supported the Knight Institute's position. But he called that defense "laughable".

"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 L.A. Times. The letter specifically names two recently blocked individuals and the alleged bases for blocking who will presumably be plaintiffs should this matter turn into a litigation (for now, their attorneys are just asking that the accounts be unblocked).

But, as Wired points out, not every legal expert buys the institute's argument.

In effect, the Institute argues that the law requires Trump make his account available to everyone regardless of whether they criticize him.

A free speech advocacy group from Columbia University complained on Tuesday that Trump blocks the Twitter accounts of people he doesn't agree with.

Overing said courts would most likely deem a public forum a physical venue like a park or town hall, not a social media platform. According to the institute, it was due to a her tweet of a GIF showing the pope looking uncomfortable while standing next to Trump.

Comedy writer Nick Jack Pappas, tweeting from the account @Pappiness, was also blocked by the president. A search on Twitter shows a numerous people claiming to be blocked. It is a forum for expression in which you share information and opinions relating to government policy with the public at large and in which members of the public can engage you, engage one another, and sometimes elicit responses from you.

At the end of the day, though, the institute's entire case hinges on the interpretation of the First Amendment, which bars the government from "abridging the freedom of speech" or from blocking the "right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances". Can he then block users?

This distinction could be important in the future, as courts are arguing how Trump's tweets should affect their rulings on his travel ban.

"This is not a Twitter account dedicated to personal interests and family affairs", Adbo said.

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