Trump is asked to unblock critics on Twitter, threatened with legal action

Twitter users block people all the time. President Trump, who has many critics (and admirers) on Twitter, does, too. Does he have a right to?

The Knight First Amendment Institute says no, because he’s president and because of the First Amendment.

Tuesday, the institute sent a letter to the president asking him to unblock his critics on Twitter or risk facing legal action.

“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,” said Jameel Jaffer, the Knight Institute’s executive director, in a statement about the letter. “Having opened this forum to all comers, the President can’t exclude people from it merely because he dislikes what they’re saying.”

In his letter, Jaffer says he is representing individuals who were blocked by Trump because they “disagreed with, criticized, or mocked you or your actions as President.” He called for the immediate unblocking of the accounts of the individuals being represented by the institute.

The letter comes amid an increased spotlight on the tweets of the president, which spokesman Sean Spicer on Tuesday called “official statements.” Trump rode his Twitter account to the presidency but his use of the platform has become increasingly controversial.

For one thing, his tweets sometimes contradict the official White House line, which experts say could harm his presidency. For example, with the Supreme Court set to consider the administration’s push for immigration restrictions, Trump — much to the delight of the other side, such as the ACLU — tweeted Monday:

Now, even his blocking of fellow Twitter users is under fire. The Knight Institute, a non-partisan organization dedicated to defending free speech in the digital age, in its statement Tuesday suggested it would pursue legal action if Trump does not unblock people on Twitter.

The letter said Twitter users’ free-speech rights are being affected because their ability to see and comment on the president’s tweets are restricted when they are blocked by Trump.

Reached by SiliconBeat Wednesday, a Knight Institute spokesman said the institute has not received a response from the White House but will give the Trump administration “a reasonable time to respond before considering litigation.”

 

Photo: President Donald Trump reacts after addressing a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. (Jim Lo Scalzo/pool image via AP)

 

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  • conniesz

    Please don’t wait too long – this is one suit many of us would happily help fund.

    • victorts

      And I hope you lose. On Facebook you can unfriend a friend so you won’t see his comments. What is so different with Twitter?

    • noh1bvisas

      aaaawwwww. did you get blocked? suckitup, buttercup.

  • Richard Downing

    Donald J Trump is not treated fairly on any of the network news shows, his only direct connection to get the truth out is through twitter so he can block anyone he wants

  • noh1bvisas

    LOL. blocked. lordy. snowflakes are sooooooooo sensitive.

  • thephilhood

    This is actually fascinating law. My immediate reaction is that Trump owns his feed and can block who he wants. On the other hand, the media practices we’ve lived with since the founding of the Republic have changed radically. Trump is not the first President to exhibit sometimes-masterful control of the public agenda. But Twitter is a long way from old-fashioned newspaper op-eds and League of Women Voters debates in high school gymnasiums. The techniques of manipulation of voters have now been taken up by parties and by the President in ways that would have been at least considered unseemly if not horrifying a couple of generations ago.

 
 
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