Wednesday, 18 October, 2017

Twitter users, blocked by President Trump, cry censorship

United States President Donald Trump speaks with President of Russia Vladimir Putin on the telephone in the Oval Office TRUMP: The media is trying to stop me from tweeting
Marta Holmes | 09 June, 2017, 02:37

The Knight First Amendment Institute is challenging the president's right to block people on Twitter.

They cited the case of Holly O'Reilly, who tweets under the handle @aynrandpaulryan, who was blocked on May 28 after she posted a GIF captioned, "This is pretty much how the whole world sees you".

For more, Poynter asked one of the signitories on the letter.

Whether the Knight Institute's argument would stand a chance in court is a matter for debate - and First Amendment attorneys are split on the issue. The letter, however, saw lawyers ask for the accounts to be unblocked, while legal actions are now under consideration. In a letter sent to Trump on Tuesday, lawyers for several users he has blocked argued that his account was a "public forum" from which the government may not constitutionally exclude people because it disagrees with views they have expressed. If we file litigation-and we haven't yet chose to do that - we may file on behalf of a broader group.

Trump has another Twitter account, @POTUS, which he inherited from President Barack Obama and is usually reserved for official announcements or links to significant White House events.

"The law here is famously muddled, because it's trying to prevent the government from discriminating against people who speak on public streets and parks, but it's trying to fight the urge to make everything a public forum".

Trump, like many other Twitter users, routinely blocks critics, trolls, and other ne'er-do-wells from following him on the social media platform. They can still blast the President from their social media accounts all they like. "But I'm not sure that Donald Trump's brief bursts of opinion are the same thing".

Thus far, neither the White House nor Twitter have offered comments on the letter sent by the blocked users' legal representatives. Help us make a difference for Malaysia.

Legal experts have said his tweets may directly affect policy. But is it different if the user doing the blocking happens to be the president of the United States? Some of the president's aides reportedly have access to the account, and some of the president's tweets are apparently written by those aides. For example, he used @realDonaldTrump to announce at 4:44 a.m. yesterday morning that he would be nominating Chris Wray as Federal Bureau of Investigation director. This isn't a personal account.

Had Twitter been explicitly designed by the government as a line of communication between the president and the American people, Richards noted, the institute might have a better case. Why would it be subject to the First Amendment?

On Monday, Politico's Susan Glasser reported that President Trump's national security team was blindsided when Trump failed to commit to NATO's foundational Article 5 in his May 25 speech to fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders. And our argument isn't that Twitter is a public forum, but that President Trump's Twitter account is.

People who get banned for hate speech or harassment often complain about their "free speech" rights, but that only means the government can't stop you from doing something. If @RealDonaldTrump is seen as a governmental project and thus a limited public forum, then viewpoint-based exclusion from posting to such threads likely would be unconstitutional, just as viewpoint-based exclusion from commenting on a government-run Facebook page would be.

The fact that Twitter is a private company isn't material.


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