A group of Twitter users that have been blocked by President Donald Trump are suing the president for First Amendment violations. They are public communications from the president. These people argue that Trump is violating their freedom of speech by blocking them.
The case, in part, needs to determine whether or not the president’s Twitter account is considered a “public forum.” Basically, the government can’t clamp down on certain forums or speakers unless it has a compelling reason to do so.
President Trump’s Twitter account has become a public government forum. The lawsuit is citing one of his tweets saying that his tweeting is “modern-day presidential.” Press Secretary Sean Spicer has confirmed that the tweets are “official statements” from the President of the United States.
Who are the people who have been blocked? They are a writer and other activists. Some are just regular people who have criticised the president. For example, the surgeon Eugene Gu, who tweeted some particularly good jabs at the president. He was blocked after he posted this on June 18th:
“Covfefe: The same guy who doesn’t proofread his Twitter handles the nuclear button.”
This wasn’t his first foray into criticising the president. On Inauguration Day, he posted:
“Life isn’t a fairytale. Sometimes the villain does win. #InaugurationDay”
Being blocked doesn’t mean that the users will never see Trump’s tweets. This just means that they can’t view the tweets on Trump’s Twitter feed. They may not comment on Trump’s tweets or reply to him. This limits their ability to protest the government or to air out their grievances.
Noah Feldman of Harvard Law School thinks that the lawsuit doesn’t stand a chance since Twitter is a private company and not an arm of the government. Feldman said:
“Trump’s account is a stream of communication that’s wholly owned by Twitter. A judicial decision forcing Twitter to make Trump unblock followers would actually violate Twitter’s First Amendment rights.”
This is a complicated issue. Hopefully, the courts can sort it out in a fair manner.
Featured image via Twitter.