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Critics Blocked from President’s Twitter Account File Suit

Knight First Amendment Institute: “Joined by seven individuals from across the country, the Knight First Amendment Institute filed suit in the Southern District of New York today contending that President Trump and his communications team are violating the First Amendment by blocking individuals from the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account because they criticized the president or his policies. The Knight Institute sent a letter to the White House last month suggesting that it would file suit if the president and his aides did not unblock individuals who had been blocked because of their views. The White House did not respond to that letter. “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. “The First Amendment applies to this digital forum in the same way it applies to town halls and open school board meetings. The White House acts unlawfully when it excludes people from this forum simply because they’ve disagreed with the president.” The president and his aides have aggressively promoted the @realDonaldTrump account as a key channel for communication between the president and the public. The White House uses the account to make formal announcements, defend the president’s official decisions and actions, report on meetings with foreign leaders, and promote the administration’s positions on health care, immigration, foreign affairs, and other matters. The president’s advisors have stated that tweets from @realDonaldTrump are “official statements.” Today’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of seven people from across the country who have been blocked from the account by the president or his aides. The blocking prevents or impedes these people from reading the president’s tweets, responding directly, or participating in the discussions that take place in the comment threads generated by the president’s tweets. The complaint argues that the @realDonaldTrump account is a “public forum” under the First Amendment, meaning that the government cannot exclude people from it simply because of their views. It also contends that the White House is violating the seven individual plaintiffs’ First Amendment right to petition their government for redress of grievances…”

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