First Amendment group sues Donald Trump for blocking Twitter users

midian182

TechSpot Editor
Staff member

Donald Trump has blocked a lot of people on Twitter. It’s something that Columbia University's Knight First Amendment Institute says is unconstitutional, and it’s now suing the President over the practice.

Last month, the free-speech group sent a letter to Trump threatening legal action and demanding he unblocks the accounts in question. It claims those who had been blocked are having their free speech protections violated.

After Trump’s administration failed to respond to the notice, the group filed a lawsuit on behalf of seven Twitter users in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. It argues that as Trump regularly uses Twitter to make policy statements, the service qualifies as a public forum, which means they can’t be stopped from viewing government communication on the basis of their views.

"President Trump’s Twitter account has become an important source of news and information about the government, and an important forum for speech by, to, or about the president," said Jameel Jaffer, the Knight Institute’s executive director, in a statement. “The First Amendment applies to this digital forum in the same way it applies to town halls and open school board meetings.”

One of the blocked defendants is Houston police officer Brandon Neely. After Trump tweeted “Congratulations! First new Coal Mine of Trump Era Opens in Pennsylvania,” on June 12, he replied “Congrats and now black lung won’t be covered under #TrumpCare.” He discovered that the @realDonaldTrump account had blocked him the next day.

"Everyone being able to see the president's tweets feels vital to democracy," said Joseph Papp, one Twitter users involved in the suit.

While it seems clear that Trump uses Twitter as an official platform – the White House has confirmed his Tweets are official statements and is preserving them – the lawsuit could come down to whether the microblogging site counts as a public forum.

Permalink to story.

 

Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
Since Twitter is a "public" company (individuals owning pieces of it through stock holdings) they are required to follow a much more strict set of rules and laws. Since users sign off on a lengthy disclaimer, part of which gives the company as well as each individual the right to restrict or block other users, the cry of 1st Amendment rights should not go very far. Newspapers publish editorial opinions but are not required to publish all rebuttals (or any for that matter). Anyway you look at it, it is just another truth that Trump is very thin skinned and will not tolerate anyone that thinks differently than he does. I am a bit surprised that Trump hasn't claimed these negative users are stalking him .... or maybe he hasn't thought that one up yet!
 

Capaill

TS Evangelist
We have discussed this before. We're all agreed that any private twitter user should be able to block users from posting on their (the private twitter user's) accounts. The problem here is that the President has used his private twitter account as if it was the POTUS account so it is now essentially no longer his private account. I feel therefore that the lawsuit is legit. If he wants to be able to block users, he should stop using his private account to post POTUS statements - he should maintain a clear distinction between his official account and his private account. Something which he is incapable of doing, despite previous attempts by his own administration. Maybe this lawsuit will finally make him see sense. But I doubt it. He'll probably tweet that it's a fake lawsuit and cut the funding of all groups protecting the constitution. Then he'll replace a few more lawyers and get the lawsuit quashed.
 

Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
The problem here is that the President has used his private twitter account as if it was the POTUS account so it is now essentially no longer his private account. .
As I recall reading the disclaimer, ALL twitter accounts are considered private unless they are paying a commercial rate so, regardless of individual feelings, if the POTUS account was registered as private, the argument is a mute point .... now the challenge is, finding out if that POTUS account is private or commercial ..... more interesting is if twitter will release that information. Since they are a public company, a simple FOIA request should do the job, unless they can substantiate privacy issues to prevent it......
 
  • Like
Reactions: psycros and Capaill

Evernessince

TS Evangelist
Since Twitter is a "public" company (individuals owning pieces of it through stock holdings) they are required to follow a much more strict set of rules and laws. Since users sign off on a lengthy disclaimer, part of which gives the company as well as each individual the right to restrict or block other users, the cry of 1st Amendment rights should not go very far. Newspapers publish editorial opinions but are not required to publish all rebuttals (or any for that matter). Anyway you look at it, it is just another truth that Trump is very thin skinned and will not tolerate anyone that thinks differently than he does. I am a bit surprised that Trump hasn't claimed these negative users are stalking him .... or maybe he hasn't thought that one up yet!
The only problem with that is the Trump himself has admitted that Twitter is his main means of communication. Being a private entity does not give Twitter the right to allow Trump to violate the 1st amendment. They either follow the constitution or block Trump from their service. They signed onto this by hosting the president's account and it's a ridiculous assertion that somehow Trump can use a private entity to get around the duties of the office.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Uncle Al

domyz

TS Booster
Left wing/dems struggling to survive... the people understood the fact that your governments finance the media while media defends democrats. Accept it, the game is now fair on both side, get along with some solid political ideas to challenge right wing instead of trying to fake-news-bullshit the not-so-blind-anymore population.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: lazer and psycros

Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
The only problem with that is the Trump himself has admitted that Twitter is his main means of communication. Being a private entity does not give Twitter the right to allow Trump to violate the 1st amendment. They either follow the constitution or block Trump from their service. They signed onto this by hosting the president's account and it's a ridiculous assertion that somehow Trump can use a private entity to get around the duties of the office.
Don't get me wrong, I am certainly not defending Trump, but I am pointing out that no matter how he uses the medium, he is following Twitter's guidelines, despite the intense aggravation it causes. One angle these people should have tried BEFORE they took legal action was to attempt to apply the "equal time" rule that most larger media outlets are obliged to follow; that is allowing those with a dissenting voice equal time and access to the masses via the media. The bottom line is that the laws of the land have not kept up with the advances on the internet, social media, etc, etc. They could have really made some inroads if they were able to put forth a bill before the Congress with various stipulation, rules, etc and gotten it passed. Of course with the President refusing to sign it they would need 2/3 rds vote to override it, but considering how angry the Democrats and many of the Republicans are with Trumps antics that might be a LOT easier than going through the courts! Just a few more thoughts ......
 

MonsterZero

TS Evangelist
Left wing/dems struggling to survive... the people understood the fact that your governments finance the media while media defends democrats. Accept it, the game is now fair on both side, get along with some solid political ideas to challenge right wing instead of trying to fake-news-bullshit the not-so-blind-anymore population.
A point, your comment here lacks one...

If you weren't so full of yourself you might be able to see this is a public issue which affects everyone. The account regardless of being private is being used to address the public.

This is what happens when we elect a TV Hack and failed business man to run the country
 
  • Like
Reactions: Evernessince

ddferrari

TS Maniac
We have discussed this before. We're all agreed that any private twitter user should be able to block users from posting on their (the private twitter user's) accounts. The problem here is that the President has used his private twitter account as if it was the POTUS account so it is now essentially no longer his private account. I feel therefore that the lawsuit is legit. If he wants to be able to block users, he should stop using his private account to post POTUS statements - he should maintain a clear distinction between his official account and his private account. Something which he is incapable of doing, despite previous attempts by his own administration. Maybe this lawsuit will finally make him see sense. But I doubt it. He'll probably tweet that it's a fake lawsuit and cut the funding of all groups protecting the constitution. Then he'll replace a few more lawyers and get the lawsuit quashed.
If you think any of Trump's child-like, one-liner tweets contain exclusive, legitimate or useful public information, you're not reading hard enough. This lawsuit is frivolous garbage.
 
Last edited:

mrjgriffin

TS Evangelist
Good luck trying to successfully sue someone with more money than you that can buy the best lawyer around lol
 

ddferrari

TS Maniac
Since Twitter is a "public" company (individuals owning pieces of it through stock holdings) they are required to follow a much more strict set of rules and laws. Since users sign off on a lengthy disclaimer, part of which gives the company as well as each individual the right to restrict or block other users, the cry of 1st Amendment rights should not go very far. Newspapers publish editorial opinions but are not required to publish all rebuttals (or any for that matter). Anyway you look at it, it is just another truth that Trump is very thin skinned and will not tolerate anyone that thinks differently than he does. I am a bit surprised that Trump hasn't claimed these negative users are stalking him .... or maybe he hasn't thought that one up yet!
The only problem with that is the Trump himself has admitted that Twitter is his main means of communication. Being a private entity does not give Twitter the right to allow Trump to violate the 1st amendment. They either follow the constitution or block Trump from their service. They signed onto this by hosting the president's account and it's a ridiculous assertion that somehow Trump can use a private entity to get around the duties of the office.
Twitter is not his "his main means of communication". It's a social media outlet in which he spouts random, simplistic, and often inaccurate personal opinions that have little to do with reality in politics.

-How is blocking someone from your social media account violating the First Amendment?
-Where in their guidelines does it state that users are not allowed to block other users,
regardless of the number of followers?
-Am I guilty too if I block someone from my Facebook account, and does that prevent them from stating their opinion to everyone else? No.
-Were people able to communicate directly with any past presidents, and is/was that a "right"? No.


Blocking someone's freedom of speech and choosing not to listen are two very different things.
 
Last edited:

psycros

TS Evangelist
Since Twitter is a "public" company (individuals owning pieces of it through stock holdings) they are required to follow a much more strict set of rules and laws. Since users sign off on a lengthy disclaimer, part of which gives the company as well as each individual the right to restrict or block other users, the cry of 1st Amendment rights should not go very far. Newspapers publish editorial opinions but are not required to publish all rebuttals (or any for that matter). Anyway you look at it, it is just another truth that Trump is very thin skinned and will not tolerate anyone that thinks differently than he does. I am a bit surprised that Trump hasn't claimed these negative users are stalking him .... or maybe he hasn't thought that one up yet!
The only problem with that is the Trump himself has admitted that Twitter is his main means of communication. Being a private entity does not give Twitter the right to allow Trump to violate the 1st amendment. They either follow the constitution or block Trump from their service. They signed onto this by hosting the president's account and it's a ridiculous assertion that somehow Trump can use a private entity to get around the duties of the office.
Twitter is not his "his main means of communication". It's a social media outlet in which he spouts random, simplistic, and often inaccurate personal opinions that have little to do with reality in politics.

-How is blocking someone from your social media account violating the First Amendment?
-Where in their guidelines does it state that users are not allowed to block other users,
regardless of the number of followers?
-Am I guilty too if I block someone from my Facebook account, and does that prevent them from stating their opinion to everyone else? No.
-Were people able to communicate directly with any past presidents? No.
-Is it a "right"? No. I don't recall any lawsuits over this in the past.

Blocking someone's freedom of speech and choosing not to listen are two very different things.
So he's exactly like every other politician using social media, which makes this latest crybullying exhibit even more laughable.
 
  • Like
Reactions: ddferrari

Evernessince

TS Evangelist
Twitter is not his "his main means of communication". It's a social media outlet in which he spouts random, simplistic, and often inaccurate personal opinions that have little to do with reality in politics.

-How is blocking someone from your social media account violating the First Amendment?
-Where in their guidelines does it state that users are not allowed to block other users,
regardless of the number of followers?
-Am I guilty too if I block someone from my Facebook account, and does that prevent them from stating their opinion to everyone else? No.
-Were people able to communicate directly with any past presidents, and is/was that a "right"? No.


Blocking someone's freedom of speech and choosing not to listen are two very different things.
Lol, blocking someone is not choosing not to listen, it's blocking them. He doesn't need to block them to just ignore them.

"How is blocking someone from your social media account violating the First Amendment?"

You mean blocking people from your social media account, while you are the president, and use said account to send message intended for the public domain. The implications are obvious. It's Trump curating who receives his messages, even though the president is working for every American. If Trump wanted a private twitter account then he shouldn't be doing official business on his "private" one. You can't have your cake and eat it too. He used his twitter by and large for his official campaign, advertising his business interests, and now for the presidency.

"Am I guilty too if I block someone from my Facebook account, and does that prevent them from stating their opinion to everyone else? No."

This is just a garbage argument. You are not a public servant, no one cares who you block. Just like no one cares what tweets you delete yet ANY form of communication from the president must be preserved under federal law.
 

ddferrari

TS Maniac
No, the implications are anything but obvious; they are in your mind. His Twitter account does not contain exclusive or even remotely important information, and anyone can read his posts on numerous news sites practically minutes after they're posted. No curating is happening here- when there are literally thousands of other access points available at all times, nearly instantaneously. And when did Twitter release their Presidential Account series anyway? You know, the one that requires access by all Americans at all times? O_o

I don't believe he's ever posted anything of real significance on Twitter, period. Does a blurb about something as inane as "North Korea is behaving very, very badly" carry a lot of weight with you? There's nothing about his posts that even remotely contain "official business". If you need sensationalistic drivel delivered fresh, download the Daily Mail app.

You missed the point: blocking someone from a social media account does not limit their freedom of speech. They can still voice their opinion to whoever is willing to listen. The First Amendment, however, does not include a mandatory requirement to listen.

You're the one spewing garbage, son.
 
Last edited:

ShadowDeath

TS Addict
Since Twitter is a "public" company (individuals owning pieces of it through stock holdings) they are required to follow a much more strict set of rules and laws. Since users sign off on a lengthy disclaimer, part of which gives the company as well as each individual the right to restrict or block other users, the cry of 1st Amendment rights should not go very far. Newspapers publish editorial opinions but are not required to publish all rebuttals (or any for that matter). Anyway you look at it, it is just another truth that Trump is very thin skinned and will not tolerate anyone that thinks differently than he does. I am a bit surprised that Trump hasn't claimed these negative users are stalking him .... or maybe he hasn't thought that one up yet!
Well I mean they can cry 1st Amendment all they want but technically it's not being broken:

Constitution of United States of America 1789 (rev. 1992) AKA Amendment 1:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So unless Trump blocking people on his personal Twitter account is the Congress making laws to silence free speech, I'll get to this bit in a moment, then they have no case that I can see. Now on to the free speech part. Trump's blocking them isn't preventing free speech.. In fact they're free speeching every chance they can get while complaining about Trump. It just means he won't see it. That's not the same as blocking free speech. These are a bunch of self entitled "look at me" people just grasping for straws to impeach Trump. The thing I find funny is they were all up at arms when he said, "I will totally accept the election results if I win". Yet here we are and those same people are doing the same exact thing. Because their candidate didn't win they aren't accepting the results and looking for a way to get him out like they think that magically Hillary will take over. That's NOT how this government works and they're in for a rude awakening.

/Rant. Sorry Uncle Al, the rant about the impeaching wasn't directed towards you. I just sometimes go off on a tangent like that when something annoys me to no end. >.>
 
  • Like
Reactions: ddferrari

jobeard

TS Ambassador
What a childish view! BTW: if we would all NOT follow D.J.T, then he would effectively be muzzled (y)
 

Namma

TS Rookie
Really quite silly.

No one is required to ALLOW someone to post to their stream. Period.

What insanity is this now that some tiny segment of the population think they should be allowed to do anything they want anytime they want? Too many "participation trophies" methinks.

People don't like trolls and harridans. Simple. If you are a troll or harridan - you - get - blocked.

I don't expect any President or Congressman - or ANY citizen for that matter - to have to put up with low-brows and shrieky women berating and denigrating instead of offering discussion that contributes to the activity as a whole.

You folks who troll and berate are getting to be old hat. You're just not interesting anymore, your speech is tired rehash of nonsense that's been overstated too many times, for far too many years and on top of that - most of it's been debunked and shown as untruths.

I'd rather listen to a flat-earther.

Stop trying to be relevant by being a virtual representation of some ugly old hag shaking their finger at someone. Try some intelligent discourse, for a change. because believe me, it's sadly missing from your quarter.
 

captaincranky

TechSpot Addict
What a childish view! BTW: if we would all NOT follow D.J.T, then he would effectively be muzzled (y)
Well, the cat is out of the bag, today's liberals and Democrats, apparently have massive amounts of pent up masochistic longings, if they tune in "The Donald';s" Twitter channel in the first place.

Twitter automatically "suppresses free speech" by virtue of the fact it's a private corporation, and they, (along with the user), can pretty much block whoever they want from harassing a poster. I think it's called a "privacy setting", but I wouldn't be caught dead over there trying to fin\d out.