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Knight Institute Said Trump Blocking Haters on Twitter Is Unconstitutional
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Summary: The Knight First Amendment Institute says Donald Trump’s blocking of Twitter trolls is unconstitutional. 

Whether or not you are a Democrat or Republican, President Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account is an endless resource of news and entertainment. His tweets range from the inflammatory (chiding London’s mayor after the London Bridge tragedy) to the comedic (#covfefe, anybody?), and his haters love to latch on to his every word. But what happens when POTUS blocks those critics? In a normal situation, we’d all say move on, troll, you had your fun; but when it comes to accessing what the President of the United States said, should everyone be allowed to read him and be heard?


That’s what a new lawsuit from Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute is claiming. The Knight Institute said that while Trump is exercising his right to tweet publicly, he is violating his citizens’ right to respond.

The Knight Institute sent a public letter to Trump, demanding that he unblock users from his account @realDonaldTrump. They said that Trump uses his personal Twitter account essentially as a public forum; and therefore, it is subject to the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of expression, assembly, and the right to petition.

Additionally, Twitter has become a forum for other politicians, The Knight Institute said. Hundreds of political leaders including congressmen, governors, and local leaders use the platform to interact and inform the public.

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Katie Fallow, a senior litigator at the Knight Institute, said, “The First Amendment disallows mayors from ejecting critics from town halls, it should disallow the President from blocking critics on Twitter.”

The Knight Institute said that Trump should unblock people from @realDonaldTrump and @POTUS, even if they annoy him with their criticisms, jokes, or complaints. The organization said that if Trump does not unblock them, then he could “face legal action to protect the First Amendment rights of the blocked individuals.”

“This is a context in which the Constitution precludes the president from making up his own rules,” said Jameel Jaffer, the Knight Institute’s executive and founding director. “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.”

Jaffer added, “Having opened this forum to all comers, the president can’t exclude people from it merely because he dislikes what they’re saying.”

The Knight Institute is a collaboration between the Knight Foundation and Columbia University. According to a Columbia press release, “The institute, created with $60 million in funding committed by Columbia University and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in 2016, will use research, education and litigation to preserve and advance First Amendment rightsexpanding the freedoms of speech and the pressin the digital age.”

In January, Jaffer said that his organization had special importance during this time in American history.

“The Knight Institute’s mandate seemed important six months ago, but today it could hardly be more urgent. At a moment when the freedoms of speech and the press seem both unsettlingly fragile and absolutely crucial, I’m excited to have the chance to work with such a talented team,” Jaffer said.

Photo courtesy of CNN

What do you think of Trump’s blocking of critics on Twitter? Let us know in the comments below.


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