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Twitter Users Blocked By Trump Sue, Claim @realDonaldTrump Is Public Forum (arstechnica.com) 430

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A handful of Twitter users, backed by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, sued President Donald Trump on Tuesday, claiming their constitutional rights are being violated because the president has blocked them from his @realDonaldTrump handle. The suit claims that Trump's Twitter feed is a public forum and an official voice of the president. Excluding people from reading or replying to his tweets -- especially because they tweeted critical comments -- amounts to a First Amendment breach, according to the lawsuit.

"The @realDonaldTrump account is a kind of digital town hall in which the president and his aides use the tweet function to communicate news and information to the public, and members of the public use the reply function to respond to the president and his aides and exchange views with one another," according to the lawsuit (PDF) filed in New York federal court. "Defendants' viewpoint-based blocking of the Individual Plaintiffs from the @realDonaldTrump account infringes the Individual Plaintiffs' First Amendment rights. It imposes an unconstitutional restriction on their participation in a designated public forum," the suit says. "It imposes an unconstitutional restriction on their right to access statements that Defendants are otherwise making available to the public at large. It also imposes an unconstitutional restriction on their right to petition the government for redress of grievances."

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Twitter Users Blocked By Trump Sue, Claim @realDonaldTrump Is Public Forum

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  • Wrong approach (Score:5, Insightful)

    by williamyf ( 227051 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @05:34PM (#54789389)

    @realDonaldTrump IS NOT a public forum. Is the personal Twitter account of Mr. Donald J. Trump.

    @POTUS is a public forum, as is the account of the President Of The United States.

    The lawsuit soud be about Mr. Donald J. Trump using his PERSONAL twitter Account to conduct matters of state and public interest...

    • Re:Wrong approach (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @05:41PM (#54789427)

      Some in his WH cabinet have claimed it is official.

    • Re:Wrong approach (Score:4, Insightful)

      by BitterOak ( 537666 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @06:14PM (#54789627)
      I agree, and not only that, there's nothing to prevent people from creating a second Twitter account. You can even read someone's tweets while you're not logged into any account as long as the account isn't private. So, by blocking people, he isn't really preventing anyone from reading his tweets.
      • His intent is to block us from seeing the overwhelming negative responses... He WANTS everyone to see his tweets.
        • Re: Wrong approach (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Entrope ( 68843 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @08:20PM (#54790335) Homepage

          The plaintiffs in this lawsuit have no right, First Amendment or otherwise, for the general public to be forcibly exposed to their responses to Trump's blather.

          They can even set up a public mirror of his tweets, and respond there, if they want. Call it @realSmallHands or something, although that's probably taken.

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            It seems that they are relying on the "right to petition" bit of the 1st amendment, which guarantees their right to bring complaints to the government. Someone with more knowledge can hopefully shed light on this - for example, could someone be thrown out of a two hall meeting because the Mayor didn't like what they were saying or would that violate their rights?

            • Re: Wrong approach (Score:5, Informative)

              by Entrope ( 68843 ) on Wednesday July 12, 2017 @07:46AM (#54792523) Homepage

              In the context of the First Amendment, such a meeting is called a limited public forum, and is subject to some restrictions by the government that organized it. http://www.firstamendmentcente... [firstamendmentcenter.org] goes into more depth about what is and isn't allowed.

              I very much doubt that the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account will be held to be either a traditional or limited public forum for the purposes of First Amendment analysis. It meets the usual criteria for a nonpublic forum, and any "public" uses of it align closely with Perry Educ. Ass’n v. Perry Local Educators’ Ass’n, 460 U.S. 37 (1983) as described at https://canons.sog.unc.edu/lim... [unc.edu].

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      It is a statement that could be defended, but usually we don't differentiate the POTUS from the person who occupies it.

      Certainly Trump appears to believe that all of his actions fall under the protection of the office, not just his official duties. So when he is at his golf resorts on most weekends, and leaks classified information, he is not prosecuted as Donald J Trump, businessmen, but protected as POTUS.

      Likewise he uses his personal Twitter account to make statements as POTUS, and bragged that it i

    • Re:Wrong approach (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @06:20PM (#54789673)

      @realDonaldTrump IS NOT a public forum. Is the personal Twitter account of Mr. Donald J. Trump.

      @POTUS is a public forum, as is the account of the President Of The United States.

      The lawsuit soud be about Mr. Donald J. Trump using his PERSONAL twitter Account to conduct matters of state and public interest...

      I have a better idea. Let's stop trying to recognize a fucking Twitter account as a form of communication for the President of the United States.

      His position entitles him to take over the entire spectrum of public transmission in order to broadcast a message to the masses if necessary. And I'm pretty sure the US Government budget can swing the costs of their own domain name. Perhaps we should stop pretending his ability to communicate to an entire country is somehow reliant on cheesy social media freeware.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @06:34PM (#54789771)

        His position entitles him to take over the entire spectrum of public transmission in order to broadcast a message to the masses if necessary.

        Please dear Lord, do not let that asshole know that.

        24x7 wall-to-wall ads for Trump products.
        On every broadcaster. Forever.

      • If anyone is pretending that the president's ability to communicate is reliant on Twitter, it would be Trump himself, who keeps using Twitter to communicate. And as long as he continues to do so, people will continue to recognize it for what it is.
      • by Holi ( 250190 )
        The President can use what ever he wishes, but all his public communications are public property and thus meant for all.
      • Re:Wrong approach (Score:5, Insightful)

        by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @07:56PM (#54790215) Homepage Journal

        It's the President who is choosing to communicate via social media channels, we're not making that choice for him, so unfortunately we do have to recognize that the President of the United States is using a "fucking Twitter account" as a form of communication.

        Until he stops, that's how it is. When the next fad means of communication comes out, if he's using it, it's a form of communication. Sorry.

        • It's the President who is choosing to communicate via social media channels, we're not making that choice for him, so unfortunately we do have to recognize that the President of the United States is using a "fucking Twitter account" as a form of communication.

          Until he stops, that's how it is. When the next fad means of communication comes out, if he's using it, it's a form of communication. Sorry.

          Much like POTUS using a cell phone bought off eBay, there's a valid reason he should not be using a communications medium that has not been hardened or is under the direct control of those responsible for securing POTUS communications.

          The impact of someone hacking Trumps Twitter account is considerable. It is wise to mitigate risk based on potential impact and damage, and as unstable as things are in the world (North Korea for example), it may not take but a single tweet to create a very shitty situation.

        • It's the President who is choosing to communicate via social media channels, we're not making that choice for him, so unfortunately we do have to recognize that the President of the United States is using a "fucking Twitter account" as a form of communication.

          Until he stops, that's how it is. When the next fad means of communication comes out, if he's using it, it's a form of communication. Sorry.

          The President of the United States doesn't use a cell phone bought off eBay. Those responsible for securing and controlling the communications of POTUS make that choice for him. THAT is how it is, and not properly mitigating risk associated with using Twitter is exactly why he needs to stop.

          Those serving as POTUS need to understand that some of their rights disappear while acting in that role, and for valid reasons.

    • by Holi ( 250190 )
      Disagree, there is nothing special about the POTUS account. It's just another Twitter account and not an official US channel of communication. It just matters what the president uses.
    • If Trump uses the @realDonaldTrump account to express his opinions he is not conducting matters of state. And everything POTUS or for some NMP does is of public interest to someone.

      The President is not barred from expressing his opinions.
    • @realDonaldTrump IS NOT a public forum. Is the personal Twitter account of Mr. Donald J. Trump.

      Trump himself has tweeted

      My use of social media is not Presidential - it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!

      making it pretty clear that he intends to use it for official purposes.

      cit: https://twitter.com/realDonald... [twitter.com]

  • Complete idiocy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mike Van Pelt ( 32582 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @05:36PM (#54789397)

    This is the kind of utter nonsense that's likely to get us a second Trump term, making everybody on the ant-Trump side look like complete morons.

    (And no, I didn't vote for the SOB.)

    • Re:Complete idiocy (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @06:59PM (#54789907)

      This is the kind of utter nonsense that's likely to get us a second Trump term, making everybody on the ant-Trump side look like complete morons.

      (And no, I didn't vote for the SOB.)

      I did vote for him, and I think your analysis is right. THIS is exactly the kind of idiocy that will get us a 2nd term. The obvious obstructionist hypocrisy is on full display. You can only trade in hype and hyperbolae for so long before folks become desensitized to your effort and you have to invent some new crisis to whip up the base again. Rinse, hype up to a lather, and repeat. I don't see how Trumps opponent can compete. By the time the next presidential election rolls around, assuming he doesn't shoot himself in the foot and get caught up in something real, he will have the persona of a guy who survived the full onslaught of the opposition, the winner he claimed to be the first time around... How does his challenger compete with that?

  • by AlanObject ( 3603453 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @05:36PM (#54789399)

    I don't think that's going to work. The White House and most if not all Senators and Congressmen have web pages for many years and have never given up the right to control what goes on them.

    Free speech does not mean that the government has to publish whatever you want to say. When the president gives a speech he does not have to give up the microphone to you.

    Further, if this actually got to court they could point out that the plaintiffs have multiple other avenues to having their voiced heard. There is no constitutional reason it has to be on the president's twitter feed.

    Big Meh

    • Yeah, it's the last part that's the crux of the matter, you have the right to speak, but I don't have to listen to you.

      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        More correctly, you do not have to provide a forum for others to speak in. A presidential press conference is an official forum, that doesn't mean anyone can stand up and speak their mind at one.
        • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @09:51PM (#54790757)

          if the POTUS offers 'the citizens' in general a back-channel to reach the POTUS (ie, a reply button) - but then denies it selectively based on personal whim, THAT is the problem that we are discussing.

          if he made it broadcast-only, like classic old-school one-way media, then no one has a reply button. that's how things were up until we had this 'series of tubes' appear and, well, change everything.

          small-hands wants to silence his critics and make his 'channel' appear to be nothing but good feelings and support from 'all' the people. and by deleting the ones you don't agree with, you censor the public. no other way to put it, you censor the public's replies based on arbitrary political criteria.

          do you really think that's a good thing? is this the kind of country and society we want?

          if he's allowing any comments, he must allow them all.

          stay classy, donald. (sigh)

          • by msauve ( 701917 )
            Nope. Not a problem. An extension of the same example - if he wants to allow a guest to speak during a press conference, that's his prerogative, he doesn't have to allow anyone he doesn't want.

            And, it is in no way a restriction or infringement of "free speech," anyone who wants to make a speech can do so, in their own forum.

            To even try to claim it's censorship is simply ignorant.
          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            Trump doesn't use blocking to purge negative responses from his Twitter feed - it's basically a torrent of abuse directed at him and he doesn't block 99.9% of people replying.

            He blocks people who hurt his feelings as a form of revenge. He's a poor snowflake, we know this by the way he keeps complaining about people being mean to him. That's all it is.

    • by Serenissima ( 1210562 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @06:08PM (#54789603)
      It would be absolutely hilarious if this went to court, the court ruled it was a private account, and the next day Twitter blocked the account because of too many abusive language flags.
      They could say, "It's a private account, the President is still able to post through the @POTUS account."
      It'd never happen, but man, it'd be funny if it did. :)
    • It's about Trump deciding that certain individuals don't qualify to receive his 'tweets'.

      • It's about Trump deciding that certain individuals don't qualify to receive his 'tweets'.

        No, you've got it exactly wrong. Certain individuals have demonstrated that they can't be constructive REPLYING in public on his personal account and have been stopped from doing so. They can READ his tweets all day long.

        • I don't use twitter. But aren't they no longer able to follow, read, or reply to Trump's tweets within the twitter application?

    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

      Free speech does not mean that the government has to publish whatever you want to say.

      That's true. Free speech only means that you can say whatever you want without fear of retaliation. But this kind of political censorship is clearly retaliation for saying something the government didn't want you to say.

    • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @06:31PM (#54789743)

      I don't think that's going to work. The White House and most if not all Senators and Congressmen have web pages for many years and have never given up the right to control what goes on them.

      I don't see how that's relevant (unless you mean things like Facebook).

      Free speech does not mean that the government has to publish whatever you want to say. When the president gives a speech he does not have to give up the microphone to you.

      No, but if he creates a bulletin board for people to post comments about his speech he can't take down all the ones he disagrees with.

      Further, if this actually got to court they could point out that the plaintiffs have multiple other avenues to having their voiced heard. There is no constitutional reason it has to be on the president's twitter feed.

      Big Meh

      The first amendment doesn't work like that, you can't do viewpoint discrimination just because the person could publish their views somewhere else.

      That being said I'm still not convinced Twitter does qualify as a public forum. I find the claims about being barred from reading the Tweets to be unconvincing (it's pretty easy to view the tweets even if blocked), but being unable to reply is another matter. Being unable to reply to @RealDonaldTrump really does affect your ability to participate in the public dialogue.

      There's also a lot of Politicians who have Facebook pages, I don't see why a ruling on Trump's Twitter account wouldn't apply to their Facebook pages as well.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      "The White House and most if not all Senators and Congressmen have web pages for many years and have never given up the right to control what goes on them."
      Except this is a twitter feed. The president does not own it.
      "Free speech does not mean that the government has to publish whatever you want to say. When the president gives a speech he does not have to give up the microphone to you."
      Except the president has given the mike to people and then jerked it away from anyone that says something he does not like

    • and at most take comments. The president's twitter feed does not belong to the Republican party. If it did you might have a point. He's been using it more or less to conduct official business. He's made it public with his own actions. It's a little late to back out now.
    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      The president isn't publishing those tweets -- Twitter is.

      Which of course confuses things greatly. Twitter is under no obligation to publish your remarks.. and yet the Twitter leaves the decision to publish to Trump, who is obligated to not suppress free speech by virtue of his being a government official.

      That's before we even start discussing whether POTUS posting about policy on a private account is considered private or public information. I suspect if brought to it, SCOTUS would call it public.. but t

  • Funny (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @05:36PM (#54789401)

    It's a private forum when the left uses to censor people. But it's suddenly a public forum when they are the ones being censored.

    • Re:Funny (Score:4, Informative)

      by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @05:46PM (#54789465) Homepage
      It is a private forum. The owners of that private forum should have already cancelled the tiny handed one's Twitter account for multiple violations of TOS. Others have been banned for far less than what the orange clown has said.
      • Not funny, but I never get any mod points so I can't give you the "insight" mod you earned. Actually, I was confused by your subject, but now I have probed and see that the Subject: was inherited from one of Putin's paid trolls. (Why are you feeding the troll?) This is a topic with LOTS of room for humor and insight, but I couldn't find any of the first and little of the second, especially in the comments so modded.

        Actually I'm interested in "saving" Twitter. Probably impossible, but can you imagine the use

  • maybe the WH should turn the video back on.

    we need snaps for the #WinterIsHere snap filter

  • Donald Trump is no different than anyone else to the extent that he has every right to have a personal social media account and some measure of privacy for that. But the problem is when he mixes his personal platform to talk with the bully pulpit of a public office (remember Hillary Clinton's private email server?) If you want to have a Twitter account, make it @DJtheprez and then get into petty public feuds with *that* and make your other account private.
  • The @realDonaldTrump account is a kind of digital town hall in which the president and his aides use the tweet function to communicate news and information to the public, and members of the public use the reply function to respond to the president and his aides and exchange views with one another

    Shouldn't they be arguing that Twitter is the "digital town hall" and @realDonaldTrump is a corner where Trump stands on his soap box to make their analogy more fitting? Just because I am on Twitter (I'm not) doesn't mean I am listening to Trump.

    "Twitter is a kind of digital town hall in which people use the tweet function to communicate news and information to each other and use the reply function to respond to each other and exchange views with one another"

    If that is the case they are more arguing that Tw

  • The fundamental problem here is that the first amendment let's you say what want without being jailed. What it doesn't do is ensure that anyone has to listen to you. Secondly, you are talking about twitter, a private forum that can make up any rules that it wants or even violate it own rules without cause.

    Like it or not, that's the reality.

    • Re:Dumb and wrong. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @06:15PM (#54789643) Journal
      You know what else used to be wholly private? ATT. We decided it was in the best interests of the nation to destroy that privacy and make it fair for all. There is no reason we cant do the same to online discourse. Further, Twitter is only reachable by crossing public right of ways. Being 'private' isnt as set in stone as you think.
    • by Boronx ( 228853 )

      The First Amendment says that congress can't restrict the freedom of speech, not that you won't go to jail for it. Because Congress passes all the laws, you can extend this concept to say that any federal official cannot restrict the freedom of speech in their legal capacity as an officer.

      Clearly, Trump did not use the office of the presidency to mute people on his own twitter account. On the flip side, Democracy needs more than just laws to survive. Having a thin skinned, vengeful tyrant lead a democra

  • by sarbonn ( 1796548 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @06:14PM (#54789633) Homepage Journal
    The interesting part of this case is that it most likely will be decided upon whether or not the court system considers Trump's Twitter account to be the official word of the POTUS, or if it's considered a private account. His own staff has already muddied the water by stating that his tweets are official words of the administration. And his POTUS account is practically silent in comparison to his own personal account. I don't personally have a horse in this race, but I am quite interested in the outcome because either way the decision goes, it's going to be a significant decision.
  • They don't let the public into press briefings (I'm not sure if they let the press in these days), and they wouldn't put up with them heckling if they did, and when POTUS makes a televised address he isn't forced to take phone calls from viewers afterwards.

  • The lawsuit is frivolous and makes absolutely no sense, but it calls attention to something way more serious.
    Twitter, or a Twitter account is NOT public forum, it should never be consider public forum, and people advocating for something like this are crazy for doing so.
    The very basis for something to be considered public forum is that it has to be government owned.
    @realDonaldTrump not only is a personal account, it also belongs to a private service. It can't and won't be considered public forum because if

  • Being blocked from Trump's Twitter feed, they said, was illegal and akin to a mayor ejecting critics from city hall meetings.

    There's critics and there's critics. Being kicked out from a town hall meeting for merely disagreeing with the mayor would be an outrage. Being kicked out for calling the mayor an orange haired, small handed (and we all know what that means), brainless, right wing nut job that wouldn't know how to dump piss from a boot if the instructions were written on the heel, and then proceeded to list all their "grievances" from the lack of government funded healthcare to the lack of paper towels in the ladies room,

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