A First Amendment Group is Suing Trump for Blocking People on Twitter

Chicago Tribune
Mere weeks after narrowly avoiding a ban from the platform, Trump has once again found himself facing rebuttal for his activity on Twitter. This time it's not an acerbic or offensive tweet that's caused the problem, instead, it's his blocking habits that are causing problems. The Knight First Amendment Institute, who represent Columbia University, have filed a lawsuit against Trump, claiming that the blocking of seven people by Trump on his official Twitter page was unconstitutional.

In all seven cases, the blocking itself was allegedly based on the opposing views of the people in question, rather than any kind of abusive language, threat or any other violations of Twitter's terms of use. Generally, you don't need a reason to block someone, but Knight are contending that the official presidential Twitter account is a public forum where Americans should be permitted freedom of speech. In sum, Trump shouldn't be allow to muzzle people who disagree with him.

Knight initially sent a letter to Trump threatening legal action, before filing an actual suit with the Southern District of New York. The White House has previously confirmed that Trump's account posts official statements, so in that sense Knight certainly have some grounds, but as is often the case involving any digital media-related lawsuit, it's murky.

The trouble is, as much as Trump's account is an official resource for keeping track of policy announcements and other governmental activity, that doesn't necessarily also make it a public forum. If one account faces a lawsuit for blocking users, regardless of who it belongs to, there's little to stop other accounts from receiving the same treatment. Imagine a world when a blocked troll could sue the blocker. Not pretty is it.

The lawsuit will go ahead, regardless of such discrepancies, and it may well be found that Trump's Twitter is a recognised political forum, and if that happens the implications could spread to other political accounts in the US and perhaps even globally. Trump is an obvious beacon for this because of the way he behaves on Twitter, but regardless of his behaviour, it's difficult to single out one politician for a singular approach when Twitter casts such a wide net. 

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