Trump's Twitter Blocks Violate First Amendment: Advocacy Group

Free-speech advocacy group says excluding people is 'unconstitutional'
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 7, 2017 9:42 AM CDT

(Newser) – Blocking people on Twitter is a feature many use liberally to keep their feeds friendly. But should public officials like President Trump be allowed to exclude users in the same fashion? Absolutely not, says the Knight First Amendment Institute, a non-partisan group founded last year at Columbia University that's dedicated to defending free speech in the digital age, reports USA Today. The Knight Institute sent a letter to the White House Tuesday in support of two Twitter users who complained they were blocked by Trump after criticizing him on the social media platform. The letter argues that Trump's account "operates as a 'designated public forum'" that is protected by the First Amendment, making blocking users "unconstitutional." The institute says it plans to take legal action should the administration not comply with their request to stop blocking users who disagree.

According to the Washington Post, Sean Spicer's statement Tuesday that Trump's Twitter account, which has nearly 32 million followers, should be "considered official statements by the president of the United States" helps seal the Knight Institute's argument, even if it's Trump’s personal account. "This is not a Twitter account dedicated to personal interests and family affairs," says institute attorney Alex Abdo. "This is for all intents and purposes the official account of the White House." But constitutional law scholar Michael W. McConnell tells the Post he doubts the threat has teeth: “The president is entitled to communicate with [whomever] he wants to whenever he wants to. No one has the right to compel someone else to communicate with them.” (Meanwhile, the debate over whether Trump should reign in his tweets has fired up again.)

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