Trump’s Blocking of Twitter Users Violates First Amendment, Says Knight Institute

Donald Trump Twitter
Alex Wong/POOL/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

The Knight First Amendment Institute, a non-profit set up by the Knight Foundation and Columbia University, is calling on President Trump to unblock Twitter users who have been denied access to the @realdonaldtrump account after they criticized him or expressed disagreement.

The institute, in a letter to Trump, warned that the President could face legal action on behalf of two clients they represent.

“This Twitter account operates as a ‘designated public forum’ for First Amendment purposes, and accordingly the viewpoint-based blocking of our clients is unconstitutional. We ask that you unblock them and any others who have been blocked for similar reasons,” the letter stated. It was signed by Jameel Jaffer, the director of the institute; senior litigator Katie Fallow; and senior staff attorney Alex Abdo.

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.” In the photo, Pope Francis appears uncomfortable during a meeting with Trump at the Vatican last month.

Also cited was Joseph Papp, who tweets under the handle @joepabike, who discovered he was blocked after he posted on June 4 the message, “Why didn’t you attend your #PittsburghNotParis rally in DC, Sir? #fakeleader.” It was a response to Trump’s tweet of his weekly radio address.

The institute argues that Trump’s Twitter account “is a forum for expression in which you share information and opinions relating to government policy with the public at large, and in which members of the public can engage you, engage one another, and sometimes elicit responses from you.”

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.

But the Knight Institute argues that Trump’s personal account — where he is prone to express his own, spur-of-the-moment thoughts, is also a public account, even though Trump established the handle when he was a private citizen and then when he was a candidate.
On Tuesday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer was asked about whether Trump’s tweets are also official statements by the President, and he said that they were.

The Knight letter states that “it is plain that our clients were blocked from your account on the basis of their viewpoints. Each of them was blocked soon after having disagreed with or ridiculed you. Other users appear to have been blocked for similar reasons.

“Of course, it is easy to understand why you and your advisers might have found our clients’ posts to be disagreeable. Even if the posts were scornful and acerbic, however, they were protected by the First Amendment.”

In a statement, Jaffer said that “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. Having opened this forum to all comers, the President can’t exclude people from it merely because he dislikes what they’re saying.”

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 13

Leave a Reply

13 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Jeffrey Pickering says:

    I’m not shocked. Orange Hitler is pretty unfamiliar with the Constitution, and most other aspects of his job. What have we done???

  2. Ron Folsom says:

    The Knight Institute can shove it up their asses. The President can block whomever he chooses on his account. Why don’t you snowflake bastards get a life.

    • The Truth says:

      If Trump critics are “snowflakes,” then the Dickhead-in-Chief is up to his neck in a global avalanche. The President is not immune to the provisions of the Constitution, and the courts will now decide whether or not his attempts to squash righteous criticism of his ridiculous tweets is lawful.

  3. Bob Jones says:

    LOL I hope they file their crazy lawsuit. We get to watch the snowflakes melt when a judge throws it out of court. They would have already filed it but they can’t afford the court costs because they know they would lose. By the way, the Variety deletes comments all the time even though they operate under the first amendment. You’re all just a bunch of fake news outlets.

    • Smith Cassidy says:

      Wow, Bob…way to not understand the argument. As soon as you brought Variety into the conversation, your comprehension let you down.

    • timgray2013 says:

      Then why are you reading Variety and commenting online? Because deep down you know this is NOT fake news?

  4. George Lewis says:

    Nonsense. Not even news worthy. Just a crazy threat or lawsuit.

  5. Challenger revived KH says:

    He is guilty of Article 3 section 3, PERIOD… Selling Drones to Saudi, know enemy that will attack Ref 911- 19 terrorist, 15 were Saudi.. Giving of classified Documents to Russian personal while in the oval office which is spitting in the face of American’s who have died to keep AMERICA from being over run.. Treason… Giving of Aid to YET ANOTHER Country IRON BLOC by the Way, who will attack Putin is x military, That fat Chimp, treason.. Congress will do nothing WHY.. Their GUILTY of Seditious Conspiracy Section 18 ,, “if 2 or more person with the intent to block or any way hinder the normal daily working of an operating government… This constitutional definition of Working Government… Violating this since Ronnie Reagan.. Proof, Obama admin:Speaker of house. We will do our best to make admin Fail, We will shit down Government, and DID>>> Send that message to knight institute, .. Every thing that fat treason monger nitwit has done directly shows he does not care anything about AMERICA>> IMPEACH NO ,, clear all and hold them in directly guilty of TREASON Read James Storm “NONE DARE CALL IT TREASON… >

More Digital News from Variety

Loading