Does Trump's Twitter Blocking Violate the First Amendment?
A free speech advocacy group claims that President Donald Trump's Twitter account is a public forum, and therefore he cannot block anyone from it.
If you're fed up with President Donald Trump's early morning tweetstorms, you may be compelled to unfollow him or maybe even block his account, and apparently that's the same way he feels about you.
A free speech advocacy group from Columbia University complained on Tuesday that Trump blocks the Twitter accounts of people he doesn't agree with. That blocking constitutes a violation of the First Amendment, the Knight First Amendment Institute argued, because the government has designated Trump's Twitter account as a public forum.
"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," Knight Institute Executive Director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement on Tuesday. "Having opened this forum to all comers, the President can't exclude people from it merely because he dislikes what they're saying."
Twitter's blocking feature is meant to be used as "an effective way to handle unwanted interactions from accounts you do not want to engage with," according to the company. A blocked account cannot view tweets, lists of followers, likes or lists of the user who blocked it.
The Knight Institute demanded that Trump unblock the accounts of people whom he blocked because of their views, but it did not threaten legal action. No word on if muting -- which just blocks someone's tweets from appearing on Trump's timeline -- would be acceptable.
Whether or not access to Trump's tweets is protected under the First Amendment, it's clear that the government itself considers his personal tweets to be public records under the Presidential Records Act, which means that they must be preserved. In other words, if Trump doesn't unblock you, you'll eventually be able to visit the National Archives to see his tweets, assuming you still care about his early morning rants by the time they're preserved. (Or you could just look at his Twitter page while not signed into your account.)
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