Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Twitter Followers Blocked by President Trump Claim First Amendment Violation

A request to be unblocked by two Twitter users who got blocked by @realDonaldTrump, President Donald Trump's verified, personal (?) Twitter account, is making waves through the internet. Users @joepabike and @AynRandPaulRyan have claimed that the block violates their First Amendment rights to participate in a public forum.

Basically, they are claiming that a public forum is being held and they are denied entry for an illegal reason. More specifically, it would be like a public official banning you from a town hall meeting being held at a privately owned location because you publicly criticized or even insulted that official. The First Amendment protects the peoples' right to free speech, particularly when criticizing government officials.

Are Twitter Users Suing the President?

The users have not yet filed a lawsuit, but their demand letter was certainly not sent in jest. The users, represented by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, while respectful, carefully explains that the president's Twitter account is a public forum, and that people cannot be removed for having opposing opinions, or contrary viewpoints.

What'd These Tweeters Do to @realDonaldTrump?

Basically, these two Tweeters tweeted critical comments about President Trump. One included the hashstag #fakeleader, while the other posted a short video showing the Pope's alleged reaction of displeasure in seeing Trump. Shortly after each user posted their critical tweets, they were blocked by @realDonaldTrump.

Can the President Block Whom He Chooses?

Whether or not the president can block people from his personal Twitter account seems to primarily rest on whether his personal Twitter account is considered a public forum or not. While some might claim that by virtue of the fact that Twitter is a free service available to anyone, that it is public. However, alternatively, Twitter is a private company that offers their web-space on the internet for people to engage in discussion, and has the right to deny individuals access pursuant to their terms and conditions and state and federal law.

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