President Trump sued for blocking 7 Twitter users
26th Jul 2017
By: Stephanie Duran
On July 11, seven individual Twitter users and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, a free-speech group, sued Donald Trump for blocking Twitter users from his @realDonaldTrump account. The lawsuit claims that Trump blocked several accounts whose owners replied to his tweets with dissent or criticism, and that such efforts equated to an unconstitutional suppression of free speech.
As Trump uses Twitter to express policy decisions and communicate with the American public, it’s easy to see how blocking dissenters could be considered tantamount to suppression of free speech. In fact, the lawsuit alleges that because Trump turns to Twitter to make his policy statements, the account constitutes a public forum from which the government cannot exclude people on the basis of their views. Additionally, as many news organizations now report about Trump’s tweets and what’s “trending” on social media, Trump’s restriction on who can comment on his Tweets can indirectly manipulate the news.
The lawsuit will face some serious hurdles in proving that Trump’s efforts are tantamount to a first amendment violation. As Twitter is far from the only forum available to constituents to express dissent, communicate with the President, or receive public policy information from the government, Trump’s purported suppression may not be sufficient to prevail in court. However, if the court decides that blocking users based on their opinions is an unreasonable violation of the first amendment, then this could be the first of many lawsuits to come, as many elected officials throughout the country have attempted to bury the dissenters, mockers and trolls by blocking Facebook and Twitter users from their accounts.