A first amendment institute sent a letter to President Trump demanding he unblock all people he’s blocked on Twitter or face legal action.
The Knight First Amendment Institute, which sent the letter, argues that the President, by blocking his critics, has violated the First Amendment rights of those people.
“In a letter sent [yesterday] to President Trump, the Knight First Amendment Institute asked the President to unblock the Twitter accounts of individuals denied access to his account after they criticized or disagreed with him, or face legal action to protect the First Amendment rights of the blocked individuals,” the Institute’s press release read.
According to the Institute, Trump’s Twitter account is a “designated public forum” and therefore subjected to the constitutional free speech guarantees that prohibits the government from silencing people in public places due to their views.
“The Knight Institute asked the President to unblock its clients, or to direct his subordinates to do so,” the release added.
Multiple people have recently taken to Twitter to announce that they were blocked by the President on Twitter. A Jimmy Kimmel Live! comedy writer, Bess Kalb, was blocked by Trump because, according to him, she “hurt his feelings.” (Most likely it’s due to her lame jokes.)
Some users have suggested the comedy writer contact the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and sue Trump for violating The Presidential Records Act which guarantees the public have access to Trump’s public records, in this case they mean his Twitter feed.
The Institute documented another case where a person was blocked by Trump. A Twitter user named @@AynRandPaulRyan was blocked after tweeting at Trump a gif of the Pope looking gloomy.
— Holly O'Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan) May 28, 2017
Jameel Jaffer, the Knight Institute’s executive director, claimed “This is a context in which the Constitution precludes the President from making up his own rules.”
“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.”
Senior litigator at the Institute, Katie Fallow, meanwhile, said that “When new communications platforms are developed, core First Amendment principles cannot be left behind.”
“The First Amendment disallows the President from blocking critics on Twitter just as it disallows mayors from ejecting critics from town halls.”
Some First Amendment experts, however, weren’t sure there’s a case to be made that the President must unblock the blocked users. Neil Richards, a professor at Washington University’s law school, specializing in First Amendment theory, told WIRED that “The question of whether the President’s Twitter feed is a public forum is a more complicated question.”
“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.”