First Amendment: Trump administration fights for right to block Twitter users

The Justice Department seemed to argue in a submission to a federal judge that President Donald Trump can block certain individuals from official White House Twitter accounts since the accounts are not public forums under the First Amendment. At the request of a federal judge, the department clarified its position. “…Plaintiffs’ principal First Amendment claim does not apply to the @POTUS and @WhiteHouse accounts any more than it applies to the @realDonald Trump account. But there are important distinctions between the @POTUS and @WhiteHouse accounts, on the one hand, and the @realDonald Trump account, on the other that would make it a much closer question whether the First Amendment prohibits the blocking of users from the @POTUS and @WhiteHouse accounts.” (Case 1:17-cv-05205-NrB Document 70 Filed 03/28/18)

The Knight First Amendment Institute sued Trump last July on behalf of individuals Trump blocked for disagreeing with him. The case hinges on the issue of whether the @realDonaldTrump account is a public forum. Law professor Eugene Volokh is on record expressing the view that blocks do not rise to violations of the First Amendment. “Government officials can act in two different capacities: on behalf of the government and expressing their own views …,” he wrote. “Certainly Trump’s actions in moderating @RealDonaldTrump weren’t constrained by the First Amendment before he was elected; they presumably wouldn’t be if he runs for reelection, either.” (The Poynter Institute, July 17, 2018, by Daniel Funke)

For recent FAC coverage on the issue, click here.

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