President Trump just got sued by Twitter users that he (or his aides) allegedly blocked from his Twitter account after those users posted comments to President Trump’s tweets critical of him or his administration. Those blocked users claim that their First Amendment rights are being violated.
We read the 25-page complaint, and here is the crux of their argument: the President has effectively made his Twitter account an official platform for public dialogue–what’s called in First Amendment law a “public forum,” like a street, park, or sidewalk. (Generally the First Amendment is most protective of speech in a “public forum.”) By blocking those users from the president’s account, they allege, the president has excluded these individuals from a public forum based on their viewpoint–and discrimination based on viewpoint, they argue, violates the First Amendment (which it usually does). They also allege that the president is treating these blocked individuals differently based on their viewpoints by limiting their access to official presidential statements.
The complaint relies on a Supreme Court decision from last month that we wrote about, in which the Court acknowledged the “vast democratic forums of the Internet.” Stay tuned to find out what comes next, but we wouldn’t expect any significant ruling for at least a few months, possibly even a year or more.
Case: Complaint, Knight First Amendment Inst. at Columbia Univ. v. Trump, No. 1:17-CV-05205 (July 11, 2017 S.D.N.Y.).