President Donald Trump can’t legally block his haters on Twitter. That’s according to a lawsuit filed by The Knight First Amendment Institute on behalf of seven people whom the president has blocked, as reported by NPR. Since Trump’s usage of Twitter operates as a modern-day conduit to the American public, the Institute alleges that him blocking private citizens after disagreeing with them prevents them from having equal access to the president as other private citizens. Blocking something thus punishes them for exercising their right to free speech.
“I don’t even think it’s arguable,” said Jameel Jaffer, an executive director at the Institute. “It is the most important social media account operated by the U.S. government or a U.S. government official right now. And it is operated in order to get President Trump’s opinions about government policy to Americans and to the world… 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.”
However this lawsuit is settled could have as far-reaching consequences as Citizens United, which essentially categorized monetary donations as a form of speech, in terms of what constitutes free speech—and how it is regulated. If the case heads to a court, any decision will also be a landmark one in terms of establishing whether social media can fit neatly within legal parameters established more than 200 years ago. Digital culuture is evolving at a rapid rate, but governing bodies can hardly keep up. If a judge rules that government officials, including the president, can’t block access to official communications, it will have a ripple effect far into the future and how information is exchanged.
To take a look at their official complaint filing, click here