Rights Institute Demands Trump Unblock Twitter Critics, Alleges First Amendment Violations

In case you haven’t noticed, Donald Trump’s Twitter account is becoming a “bigly” problem.

In addition to generally pissing people off and making a mockery of the presidency, Trump’s tweets have begun to undermine his own agenda and look to be creating a sense of paranoia among top administration officials.

Just yesterday for instance, Trump appeared to throw the Justice Department under the bus while simultaneously maligning the judiciary:

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Sure enough, on Tuesday, Sean Spicer appeared to dodge questions about whether or not Trump still had confidence in AG Jeff Sessions.

“I have not had a discussion with him about that,” Spicer told reporters, before saying, when pressed, that “if I have not had a discussion with him about a subject I tend not to speak about it.”

And that would be fine, were it not for Trump clearly taking aim at Sessions the previous day on Twitter.

Similarly, Trump seemed to take credit in a Tuesday tweet for pushing Saudi Arabia to break ties with Qatar:

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While Qatar certainly deserves criticism for helping fund Sunni extremism, Trump seems to have been unaware (or else he was aware and just didn’t care) that America’s largest military base in the Mideast is located just 20 miles southwest of Doha.

WSJ blasted Trump for his reckless use of social media today in a truly scathing Op-ed which you can read in full here.

This afternoon, Trump completely contradicted the tweets about Qatar in a call with Saudi King Salman in which, according to Reuters, he “stressed the need for Gulf unity” because that’s what’s “needed to fight extremism, terrorism, and maintain peace and security.” But that’s exactly the opposite of what he said just hours earlier on Twitter.

Well now, The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in New York has sent Trump a letter demanding that he unblock Twitter users.

And while that sounds ridiculous, it’s actually not because just like the courts can’t be realistically expected to separate Twitter Trump from President Trump when deciding on the true intention behind the travel ban, Americans can’t be expected to read Trump’s tweets as anything other than efforts to communicate his intentions with regard to public policy.

Here’s more from Reuters:

A free-speech institute on Tuesday sent a letter to President Donald Trump demanding the prolific tweeter unblock certain Twitter users on grounds the practice violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Trump’s @realDonaldTrump account recently blocked a number of accounts that replied to his tweets with commentary that criticized, mocked or disagreed with his actions. Twitter users are unable to see or respond to tweets from accounts that block them.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in New York said in its letter that the blocking suppressed speech in a public forum protected by the Constitution.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. Twitter Inc said it had no comment.

Alex Abdo, the institute’s senior staff attorney, likened Twitter to a modern form of town hall meeting or public comment periods for government agency proposals, both venues where U.S. law requires even-handed treatment of speech.

Eric Goldman, a Santa Clara University law professor who focuses on internet law, said that previous cases involving politicians blocking users on Facebook supported the Knight Institute’s position.

If the institute should sue, Trump could claim his @realDonaldTrump account is for personal use and separate from his official duties as president, Goldman said. But he called that defense “laughable.”

And here’s the actual letter:

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Whether or not you agree with that isn’t really the point.

Rather, the takeaway is that Trump needs to stop it with the tweeting.

Or else figure out how to do it in ways that don’t jeopardize national security, undermine his own agenda, and damage America’s international reputation.

 

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