July 12 (UPI) — The Knight First Amendment Institute at New York’s Columbia University filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump for blocking critics on Twitter.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer and White House director of social media Daniel Scavino are named as co-defendants along with Trump in the lawsuit filed Tuesday.
“President Trump’s Twitter account has become an important source of news and information about the government, and an important public forum for speech by, to, and about the president,” the lawsuit reads. “In an effort to suppress dissent in this forum, defendants have excluded — blocked — Twitter users who have criticized the president or his policies. This practice is unconstitutional, and this suit seeks to end it.”
Trump’s 8-year-old Twitter account has 33.7 million followers, while the official POTUS account has 19.3 million followers and the White House account has 14.9 million followers. The Knight Institute asks a judge to stop Trump and his social media aides from blocking critics.
The lawsuit details seven examples of people blocked from Trump’s personal Twitter account. In one example, the Knight Institute said a man was blocked when he replied to a Trump tweet congratulating the opening of a Pennsylvania coal mine with the post: “Congrats and now black lung won’t be covered under #TrumpCare” — a criticism directed toward the Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
The seven people blocked from Trump’s Twitter are included as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which cites a recent Supreme Court decision stating social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter “can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard.”
Trump and White House officials have repeatedly suggested posts on Trump’s personal Twitter account are official presidential statements.
Trump on July 1 on Twitter wrote that his use of social media is not “Presidential — it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL.”
Read the full complaint here.