Jameel Jaffer, director of the Knight First Amendment Institute, said dozens of people had made statements of support after his organization told the White House three weeks ago it wasn't permitted to block individuals from following the president's @realdonaldtrump account. "The president is the president of the United States, so they're considered official statements by the president of the United States", he said when asked about Trump's tweets.
The lawsuit against Trump and his aides, filed in the Southern District of NY, followed a letter sent by the Knight First Amendment Institute to the White House in June, asking the President to unblock people.
Sean Spicer, as well as social media director Daniel Scavino, are also involved in the lawsuit. Additionally, as anyone who spends time on Twitter knows, comments on the platform can be crude, distasteful, and even scary, and blocking trolls allows for some measure of control over the people with whom you interact.
"It imposes an unconstitutional restriction on their participation in a designated public forum", the suit said.
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President Donald Trump has been sued by a group of critical Twitter users blocked from following him on the social network. "Having opened this forum to all comers, the President can't exclude people from it merely because he dislikes what they're saying".
Twitter has become an important public forum for the President and he frequently makes public announcements there, says the lawsuit. The institute follows Trump's account and argues that it has been deprived of its "right to read the speech of the dissenters who have been blocked".
The complaint alleges that by blocking Twitter users based on their viewpoints, the president is keeping them out of online dialogue on current events, in violation of their free-speech rights in the U.S. constitution's First Amendment.
As WCBS 880's Alex Silverman reported, the plaintiffs argue that Trump chose to make Twitter a public forum, nearly like a town hall meeting where anybody can participate. A White House spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
Trump is an avid Twitter user and has used the social media platform to share his views on national and worldwide issues. However, the right to freedom of speech is not a right to be heard. In his opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy described social media as "the modern public square" and mentioned the usefulness of Twitter for Americans to "petition their elected representatives and otherwise engage with them in a direct manner". This isn't to say the government can't exclude speech that has nothing to do with the forum's objective.