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Trump sued for blocking people on Twitter

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While most Americans want President Trump to stop tweeting, some Americans are now suing him for blocking them from seeing his tweets.

Last month, the Knight First Amendment Institute sent Trump a letter, asking him to unblock individuals — critics of his — he had blocked on Twitter. As we reported, the institute at Columbia University said it was a First Amendment matter because those who have been blocked are having their free speech suppressed.

The institute said the Trump administration has not responded to its letter, so it filed a lawsuit Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

“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.”

The lawsuit, brought on behalf of seven people who have been blocked by the president, lists Trump, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and White House Director of Social Media and Assistant to the President Daniel Scavino as defendants.

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“As the Supreme Court recognized just a few weeks ago, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter provide ‘perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard,’ ” the Knight Institute’s lawsuit says. The lawsuit also says the blocking of the seven individuals it is representing also suppresses the rights of the institute itself.

Because of their criticism of the President, these Plaintiffs have been prevented or impeded from viewing the President’s tweets, from replying to the tweets, from viewing the discussions associated with the tweets, and from participating in those discussions. Defendants’ actions violate the First Amendment rights of these individual Plaintiffs as well as those of other Twitter users, like Plaintiff Knight First Amendment Institute, that follow the @realDonaldTrump account and are now deprived of their right to read the speech of the dissenters who have been blocked.

The Knight First Amendment Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to defending free speech in the digital age, is asking that Trump’s blocking of the plaintiffs be declared unconstitutional; that the plaintiffs’ access to the president’s tweets be restored and that they not be blocked in the future because of their viewpoints; and that their legal fees be paid.

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The lawsuit recounts the tweets that got the plaintiffs blocked, including one by Brandon Neely, a police officer in Houston.

One or more of the Defendants blocked Mr. Neely from the @realDonaldTrump account on June 12, 2017. That morning, President Trump tweeted: “Congratulations! First new Coal Mine of Trump Era Opens in Pennsylvania.” He included a link to a Fox News article about the opening of the mine. Mr. Neely replied: “Congrats and now black lung won’t be covered under #TrumpCare.” The tweet received 3,334 likes and 341 retweets. Mr. Neely discovered that he had been blocked from the @realDonaldTrump account the following day.

Recent polls have shown that Americans view Trump’s use of Twitter negatively for various reasons, including that they think it hurts national security and the United States’ standing in the world.

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

Tags: first amendment, free speech, Knight Institute, lawsuit, Trump, twitter

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