Law professors are challenging President Trump’s ability to block opponents from his @realDonaldTrump Twitter feed, accusing him of acting like a dictator.
Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of seven professors on Monday, stating that when Trump blocks critics from accessing his Twitter account, “such practices are a familiar playbook for authoritarian regimes,” in support of the Columbia Knight First Amendment Institute’s lawsuit against Trump.
The group wrote, “False impression that political leaders are adored by the public is critical to warping the public’s understanding of how those leaders are really viewed by the public and, in turn, to quashing democratic impulses,” they wrote.
In the 26-page brief, the legal experts claim that President Trump has violated the First Amendment rights of those individuals he has blocked from commenting on his account. “These efforts harm the blocked users by denying them the opportunity to participate fully in the rapid, ongoing conversations occurring on social media,” they wrote.
“But more fundamentally, efforts to block users based on their criticism of the government threaten the very dangers that the First Amendment’s ban on viewpoint discrimination seeks to prevent: allowing the government to silence its critics, foster warped perceptions of officials’ popularity, and chill dissenting voices who may avoid speaking out for fear of reprisal.”
The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed the lawsuit in July on behalf of seven people who were blocked from the president’s @realDonaldTrump account, preventing them from viewing or replying to his tweets or viewing and participating in discussions associated with his tweets.
President Trump and his aides have stated that they consider statements published on @realDonaldTrump to be official statements, so the Knight First Amendment Institute argues that the president has imposed an unconstitutional restriction on the plaintiff’s participation in a designated public forum.
The lawsuit asserts that everyone has the right to access statements that Trump is otherwise making available to the public at large, along with their right to petition the government for redress of grievances.