Internet Law

Blocked Trump Twitter followers claim First Amendment violation

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President Donald Trump is violating the First Amendment by blocking Twitter users who criticize and mock him, according to a letter sent to him by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

Trump’s verified Twitter account is a designated public forum, and the First Amendment bars the government from excluding people based on their views, according to an institute press release. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have stories.

The letter asks Trump to unblock the Twitter users so they can view his tweets and comment. The letter is signed by three lawyers who represent two blocked users.

According to the Wall Street Journal, there is little case law on the issue. A Virginia federal judge tossed a lawsuit in March filed by a Facebook user who objected to Loudoun County’s deletion of his critical online comment. The commenter had tried to hijack the discussion in violation of the government’s social media policy, the judge said.

Lawsuits filed against three small Indiana cities last year settled before courts could rule.

The Wall Street Journal contacted Ken Paulson, dean of the college of mass communication at Middle Tennessee State University, for his take on the First Amendment argument. Paulson said it was unclear whether the president’s Twitter account, established before his election, was a public forum.

“I do think municipalities that establish Facebook pages and invite citizen input are in fact establishing public forums,” Paulson told the Wall Street Journal. “But I’m not sure that Donald Trump’s brief bursts of opinion are the same thing.”

See also: “Trump’s not the only one blocking constituents on Twitter

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