Twitter

Do You Have a Right to Follow the President on Twitter?

A lawsuit makes a plausible case that Trump's blocking of critics violates the First Amendment.

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It will surprise no one familiar with Donald Trump's attitude toward criticism that people who make negative comments about him on Twitter may find their access to his account blocked. If Trump were an ordinary Twitter user, he would be well within his rights to shun anyone who offends him.

But Trump is no ordinary Twitter user. He is the president of the United States, and he regularly uses his @realDonaldTrump account—which has 34 million followers, about 15 million more than the official @POTUS account—for presidential purposes. A federal lawsuit filed last week argues that Trump's current use of the Twitter account he established in 2009 makes it a "designated public forum," meaning that banishing people from it based on the opinions they express violates the First Amendment.

The idea that you have a constitutional right to follow the president on Twitter is not as silly as it might seem. If the White House let visitors to its website post comments and used a filter to block criticism while allowing praise, that would pretty clearly violate the right to freedom of speech.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which filed the Twitter lawsuit on behalf of itself and seven Trump critics blocked by his account, argues that the president's viewpoint discrimination on the social media platform is analogous. The institute's beef is not with Twitter, a private company that is not constrained by the First Amendment, but with the president and his staff.

If Trump used his Twitter account primarily to discuss golf, real estate, or his grandchildren, his criteria for granting access to it would not raise constitutional issues. But Trump uses his Twitter account primarily to discuss work-related subjects such as appointments, executive orders, international affairs, policy initiatives, and press coverage of his administration.

Trump's tweets, some of which are posted by White House aides, routinely make news. Sometimes they announce major decisions, such as the appointment of a new FBI director, before any other source.

The @realDonaldTrump profile lists his location as Washington, D.C., describes him as the "45th President of the United States of America," and displays official White House photos. The White House social media director describes @realDonaldTrump, along with @POTUS and @WhiteHouse, as a way of "communicating directly with you, the American people!"

Trump's press secretary says his tweets are "official statements by the President of the United States." The National Archives and Records Administration agrees, meaning the tweets must be preserved along with other official records.

Except for those specifically banned, Trump's Twitter account is open to all, and according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek "a typical Trump tweet" generates "20,000 or so replies." As a result, says the Knight First Amendment Institute, the @realDonaldTrump account has become "an important public forum for speech by, to, and about the President."

Twitter users banned by Trump are largely excluded from that forum. They cannot follow him, see his tweets while logged onto Twitter, reply to them, debate other commenters, send direct messages to him, use Twitter's search function to locate specific Trump tweets, or see which accounts follow the president or are followed by him.

Banned users can still see the president's tweets if they log out of Twitter, and they can evade the restrictions by creating new accounts under pseudonyms, although they run the risk of being banned again if they say something that irks the president. Alex Abdo, one of the attorneys behind the Twitter lawsuit, argues that "these possibilities are not constitutionally adequate alternatives for users blocked by President Trump any more than the possibility of reentering a town meeting in disguise, or listening in through an open window, would be a constitutionally adequate alternative for a person wrongly ejected from a town hall."

The crucial question is whether Trump has created the constitutional equivalent of a town hall on Twitter. Abdo and his colleagues make a plausible case that he has.

© Copyright 2017 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Trump’s private account is not an official account, so this lawsuit is TDS all the way down.

    The White House twitter account is probably not covered either because its a private company that gave the White House a certified Twitter handle.

    The REAL problem certain people have with Trump using Twitter is because the media cannot filter what he says. He says a lot of stupid shit but a lot of truth too.

    1. Pretty much.

      Democrats thought the 8 years of the Obama administration somehow captured American’s thoughts on national politics: that America really wants their brand of left-leaning democrat leadership at the federal level. And that Hillary’s inevitable victory would just be a continuation of that, as a testament to their popularity, as well as their professional political skill.

      Trump’s victory was their realization that, nah, they were really just largely lucky.

      And now their whole sense of identity and worldview is shattered.

      So of course, everything is fascism and racism and treason. Because anything is better than reality.

      1. Look, anyone has a right to politely follow our national leader on Twitter, but when people start to inappropriately “criticize” his important efforts to keep us informed of his thoughts and projects, then they should be prepared to face the consequences. Especially when they offensively use irony, sarcasm or “satire” to display their insubordination. Surely no one here would dare to defend the “First Amendment dissent” of a single, isolated judge in our nation’s leading criminal “parody” case? See the documentation at:

        http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

        1. They don’t have a right to comment on his feed, period. Politely or impolitely. They are free to speak their minds however they please, but nobody is obligated to give them a platform to do so.

          Not a single person who’s banned from posting on Trump’s twitter is allowed into a White House press briefing, nor are they an anchor on a major news network, nor would I let them stand on my roof with a bullhorn. Is that a violation of the First Amendment?

    2. Trump’s private account is not an official account, so this lawsuit is TDS all the way down.

      It’s routinely used to make official announcements (e.g. the appointment of Christopher Wray as FBI director) that are never made on the @potus account).

      The White House twitter account is probably not covered either because its a private company that gave the White House a certified Twitter handle.

      The use of a private company to do something doesn’t relieve the government of any constitutional limitations on their actions.

      1. So, because he tweets news it’s not his private account anymore?

        You seem to be vaguely suggesting something there without actually making a case for anything.

      2. So, because he tweets news it’s not his private account anymore?

        You seem to be vaguely suggesting something there without actually making a case for anything.

      3. “”It’s routinely used to make official announcements (e.g. the appointment of Christopher Wray as FBI director) that are never made on the @potus account).””

        Not sure if announcements are official business, but maybe. If he refused to use the official account, I would be more inclined to agree. Refusal to use official methods made Clinton’s private Email server fair game.

        1. Refusal to use official methods made Clinton’s private Email server fair game.

          Except Trump’s Tweets are public. Even blocked people can view them.

          All we have of Hillary’s emails are the ones she alone deemed to be relevant. And we’ve already seen she failed to turn over some quite relevant ones.

          They are not remotely the same thing.

          1. Even blocked people can view them.

            No they can’t, you lying trumptard.

            1. Trump Twitter
              You don’t even need a twitter account. Just use your little fingers and type into Google “Trump twitter”

              Its not hard even the TDS that you have.

            2. Since I care about the mentally challenged, I’ll give whatever kind of lying tard you are a hint.

            3. As has been pointed out, Stormy, they can. I can do so and not even log into Twitter, tucking moron.

        2. Having classified information pass through Clinton’s private server fro official government business made her email server fair game.

          Posting information to alert the public is not even in the same ballpark.

          1. I get the public / private difference. It’s a good point.

            Clinton’s private server became fair game because she used it for State Department business. It was the Judicial Watch lawsuit for State dept.’s communications that started the ball. Since that’s where they were kept, it became fair game. Classified info was found as a result of that lawsuit.

      4. Clinton’s e-mail.was an isdue because she was running correspondence of a classigied nature through it. I do not think personnel announcements rise to quite the same thing or are “official” in any real sense (though.he should stop.doing tnst as it is unprofessional).

      5. Trump can make an official announcement on the deck of his private yacht to a lone reporter he has invited. That doesn’t open up his yacht to the public.

    3. While I agree that the lawsuit *is* TDS, there’s pretty clear precedent that by using his private account for government work makes it a ‘public’ account.

      Same thing with email – you aren’t supposed to use private email accounts (or services) for ‘official business’ and if you do, you lose any privacy protections you had on it. Everything in it is subject to public scrutiny.

      Clinton’s shenanigans notwithstanding.

      So, because The Donald can’t handle two separate accounts at the same time, he’s put himself in this idiotic position.

      I wonder if he’s going to use Clinton’s ‘I didn’t want to have to carry two devices’ excuse. That would be kind of sweet.

      1. While I agree that the lawsuit *is* TDS, there’s pretty clear precedent that by using his private account for government work makes it a ‘public’ account.?

        But he’s not doing government work there.

        He isn’t MAKING nominations there. He is simply announcing them. No different than a press release.

        He isn’t signing legislation. He isn’t negotiating treaties. He is simply opining on it.

        So, because The Donald can’t handle two separate accounts at the same time, he’s put himself in this idiotic position.

        Because Twitter — not Trump, Twitter itself — offers the option to block people, it is Trump’s fault? How so? Trump didn’t design that functionality. He is using what is there.

        I wonder if he’s going to use Clinton’s ‘I didn’t want to have to carry two devices’ excuse. That would be kind of sweet.

        Hell, Obama almost never did this. He was even MORE in violation of law, no?

      2. Same thing with email – you aren’t supposed to use private email accounts (or services) for ‘official business’ and if you do, you lose any privacy protections you had on it. Everything in it is subject to public scrutiny.

        That is not true. If a public employee sends out a work-related email through their private email account, that particular email may be subject to disclosure as a public document but it doesn’t mean that the private ones that they send through their private email account are.

    4. That and Trump doesn’t ban “people” he bans “accounts.”

      You can always get another account. And there are lots of places his stuff gets retweeted.

      1. That’s like saying it’s okay for the government to violate FOIA because lots of stuff gets leaked anyways.

        1. Except Trump isn’t banning accounts.

          Twitter does so. Trump didn’t design the software to make that happen.

        2. Twitter is the best FOIA there is. Its instantly public knowledge.

        3. no. It isn’t.

    5. I don’t know about this. A public function being carried out through privately-owned channels doesn’t seem like enough to remove public access to it. Public functions of government are carried out all the time with the help of private entities. I don’t think that alone disqualifies it. The real question is whether the Twitter account can be considered publicly owned, such as the POTUS account. If it were the POTUS account in question, I think a case could be made. But it’s not. It’s Trump’s account (albeit he uses it as a tool of public service). Tough call, imo, but leaning toward “no.”

      1. Anyone can still see Trump’s twitter, even if their account is banned. You don’t even need an account, in fact.

        These people are saying they have a right to post a comment on his Twitter feed. It’s absurd. Even assuming we can define Trump’s personal feed as a government platform because he talks about his job there, that would mean any government announcement online without an unmoderated comment feed would be a violation of the first amendment as well.

        1. I think the argument is that you can let everyone comment on POTUS’s twitter feed, or you let nobody comment, but that having a government-led forum where you’er only allowed to praise the President is wrong.

  2. Everyone can read his tweets. Banned people can’t reply. There’s no constitutional right to reply on Twitter. That this conversation is even occurring is ludicrous. Some institute at $prestigiousUniversity filed a lawsuit? For fucks sake, every second spent thinking about this is a heartbeat wasted, including my time writing this and your time reading it.

    The whole thing is an eyeroll, and too stupid to be believed. Moving on…

    1. If Trump was not so busy fighting RINOs in Congress and lefties wanting to maintain the Nanny-State, he should counter-sue that they are trying to violate HIS 1st Amendment rights to post whatever he wants on whatever forum will let him.

      Then send the DOJ to investigate this lefty shell group for attempting violating Trump’s civil rights.

      These lefties really do not understand THIS is why people are leaving the Democratic Party in droves. Only crazy lefties run the Democratic Party.

      1. I’m still finding it a bit odd that people are using “RINO” to refer to the mainstream establishment of the party.

        1. They really mean “conservative” in name only. But CINO doesn’t ring the same.

        2. Agreed. At this point, RINO should refer to people like Paul.

        3. Republican Party platform is that the Constitution is our founding document and not an easily flexible document, pro-limited government, pro-free market, etc.
          Republican platform
          If someone says they are Republican and then are for big government, heavy government regulation, anti-free market and anti-constitution, then they are RINOs. There are many of them in the Republican Party.

          There are plenty of people that do not support basic Libertarian tenants but say they are Libertarians.

          1. Party names carry far too many implications in the US. Only 2 main parties, yet we have a smorgasbord of different ideas of what they mean. I’ll just say “classical liberal”.

          2. You actually think party platforms have anything to do with what the party members actually believe or do? Or that being a Republican means anything other than supporting your team? I don’t know what to say to that.

            1. You actually think party platforms have anything to do with what the party members actually believe or do? Or that being a Republican means anything other than supporting your team? I don’t know what to say to that.

              Why be in a Party then?

              Not that there cannot be dissent nor different views. If the GOP and Democrats cannot differentiate themselves from one another then its just good news for Libertarians who can differentiate themselves from the GOP and the Democrats.

          3. If someone says they are Republican and then are for big government, heavy government regulation, anti-free market and anti-constitution, then they are RINOs.

            So….98% of Republicans are RINOs?

            Neat.

            1. 98%? Yep, that sounds about right.

              That’s also why politics is the shape it’s currently in.

              It’s kindof funny, really. Democrats see Republican success (which sometimes happens when Republicans preach conservative and libertarian ideals) and say to themselves “We need to preach conservative and libertarian ideals, so we can get into office and implement what we want to do instead!”

              Republicans see Democrat success (which usually happens because Republicans reject their principles, and thus their voting base stays home — but sometimes it’s because Democrats preach quasi-conservative and quasi-libertarian ideals), and rather than say “We need to go back to our core ideals! We should preach them and actually, perhaps, live up to them too!” they say “look at what the Democrats are doing! We need to tell everyone that we’re going to do that too!”.

              And then they wonder why they lose elections, and why their base doesn’t like them even when they win….

              So, yeah, sadly the entire Republican Party is RINO, for stupid reasons, too. (Which is why they’re the Stupid Party.)

  3. Yeah, Trump is under no legal obligation to read their Tweets. They can tweet all day long and I, who uses Twitter so seldom that it is basically unused, can read his tweets with, literally, no difficulty whatsoever,

    To call the argument plausible is sad.

  4. Here’s the outcome likely to happen: Donald Trump stops using @theRealDonaldTrump for Presidential communications and instead starts sending out his stream of crazy consciousness as @potus. Is that really what these so-called defenders of free speech want? Of course not. But they won’t get what they want, which is a 3rd term for Barack Obama.

  5. You forgot the real clincher to the argument. The 37th Amendment clearly states that “I have a right to piss in your cornflakes whenever I want.” Clearly that includes taking a dump in your living room and twitter feed.

  6. Do You Have a Right to Follow the President on Twitter?

    No.

    A lawsuit makes a plausible case that Trump’s blocking of critics violates the First Amendment.

    No. It doesn’t.

    And we’re done here.

    1. Hell, you could have stopped reading at “plausible.”

  7. Twitting isn’t speech.

    1. You are right, it’s press.

      1. Strike two.

        1. Thanks for your valuable contribution.

          So, what is it then?

          1. I’ll try a guess! Twitting is stupid.

  8. WHO… CARES…

    1. Courts you pay for.

      1. Apparently people at Reason given the amount of comments. This is the biggest nothing story of all the nothing stories ever.

        A better question, why is Twitter even a thing?

  9. Freedom of speech is not the same thing as Freedom to Make Someone Listen. Yes, we have a right to petition the government, but that does not make every possible avenue of communication legitimate. Pretty sure I can’t cry First Amendment if I spray paint my opinions on the walls of the White House and then get arrested.

    1. Analogy fail: spray painting opinions on the walls of the White House would be a very clear violation of laws that have already been determined to satisfy the standard of being content and viewpoint neutral and reasonable “time, place, manner” restrictions. How “time, place, manner” restrictions apply to communications via Twitter that otherwise do not violate Twitter’s ToS is an open question. (And that’s to say nothing of the fact that Trump’s blocking of users pretty clearly is not being done using content and viewpoint neutral criteria.)

      1. (And that’s to say nothing of the fact that Trump’s blocking of users pretty clearly is not being done using content and viewpoint neutral criteria.)

        It’s his personal, not government, account and Twitter provides the means of blocking accounts.

        As has been pointed out, these whiners can always read his tweets. Logging into Twitter isn’t required to do so. They can’t directly reply to him, but he is under no obligation to have ANYBODY reply directly to HIM. Trump is NOT the government.

        Legally, they are no different than a rando shouting at him on the street. He would be under no legal obligation to reply to that, either.

  10. If the Donald wrote out his tweets on a cake that he refused to sell to some gays, would this guy still think it was speech?

    Or…something, it’s early and I haven’t had any coffee.

  11. The concept behind this lawsuit is troubling. It allows no separation between the person serving as president and the office. It is a imperial view of the presidency. If Trump violates the 1st Amendment by blocking people on his personal account then you are implying that the man is the State.

    I always thought that was a notion best avoided and anti-republican.

    1. The lawsuit, if successful, would reasonably lead to the conclusion that the President cannot be harassed, because people are simply expressing their opinions, and that the president can legally have no privacy, as that might limit the ability of people to speak to him.

      1. Yes, exactly. The implication is that the President is never “off”, that there is no Citizen Trump as long as he is President Trump (or whoever else might serve in the future). That seems to be a lousy idea with much more far reaching implications than a Twitter account, (such as, can a President ever refuse to talk to someone?)

        1. This might be a feature. It SHOULD suck to be President…

    2. Well, the Democrats do like to ‘make fun’ of Trump for being a God-King but I’m fairly certain that’s because they believe that when it comes to the President. That’s why they’re so upset, you see, because their God and King is mean and they want a new one.

      1. Correct assessment. Its not that THEY don’t want the President to be King. They just want THEIR person to be King.

        Even funnier is that Trump has only been able to get some Executive duties accomplished because he cannot control the GOP in Congress to repeal ObamaCare, pass tax reform, etc.

        Literally, the opposite of what a king would let happen.

    3. The concept behind this lawsuit is troubling. It allows no separation between the person serving as president and the office. It is a imperial view of the presidency. If Trump violates the 1st Amendment by blocking people on his personal account then you are implying that the man is the State.

      Except that Trump was the one who opened the door to the concept behind the lawsuit — he could have (a) stopped using his personal account altogether, (b) switched the privacy settings on the personal account so that it’s not visible to the public, or (c) used the personal account only for indisputably non-official purposes. Continuing to use the personal account in a public manner after taking office and, most especially, putting what are clearly intended to be official communications on it, is what gives the plaintiffs a very plausible argument for their case.

      1. Except that Trump was the one who opened the door to the concept behind the lawsuit — he could have (a) stopped using his personal account altogether

        Why should he?

        Nobody expects the President to have zero personal means of communication.

        (b) switched the privacy settings on the personal account so that it’s not visible to the public

        Again, why should he?

        He is making comments specifically for public consumption.

        (c) used the personal account only for indisputably non-official purposes.

        How is his giving his opinions and mentioning personnel moves “official”? Again, his personnel comments are identical to press releases. Which you can also read and have no expectations of replying to him directly over.

        Continuing to use the personal account in a public manner after taking office and, most especially, putting what are clearly intended to be official communications on it, is what gives the plaintiffs a very plausible argument for their case.

        Can you provide a reason why Tweets should be treated any differently, from a legal perspective, than a press release?

        You cannot REPLY to a press release. You can “petition” the government using other means, but a direct reply to that release is impossible. He isn’t limiting anybody’s option to petition the government.

        Remember, TRUMP IS NOT THE GOVERNMENT.

  12. There’s a difference between *do* you have a right and *should* you have a right. Do you have a right to demand gay Nazi wedding cakes? Should you have a right to demand gay Nazi wedding cakes? Libertarians are famous for arguing about what should be. In this case you’ve got the right to petition the government for redress, doesn’t mean that complaining to the mailman about your problems with the IRS carries any expectation that you’re going to get a response from the government. You’ve got channels for that. And free speech doesn’t carry any obligation for anybody else to give you a platform or listen to you.

    1. “”Libertarians are famous for arguing about what should be.””

      That’s some nice cherry picking. Who isn’t famous for arguing what should be?

      1. Who should be famous for arguing about what should be?

    2. There’s a difference between *do* you have a right and *should* you have a right.

      No, there isn’t.

      Government doesn’t create rights; it merely recognizes existing ones (or not). Government’s opinion on the matter has no philosophical bearing whatsoever.

      People in the Philippines don’t have a right to murder drug dealers, and people in San Francisco do have a right to carry a concealed handgun. The fact that the governments in these places claim otherwise is irrelevant to the nature and existence of right.

  13. Are they being blocked from responding to his tweets or are they being blocked from seeing his tweets?

    Can I sue to get into the White House press corps and ask questions during press conferences because of the First Amendment?

    1. They’re blocked from seeing his tweets as well as from responding.

      1. So, get a new account?

      2. so check it on a buddy’s phone?

      3. Ok, but That is not a federal government law, regulation, or policy. The 1st Amendment is not a restriction on people in their personal lives.

        1. The problem is that he uses the account to make official announcements:

          Example

          So if you’re blocked from seeing the account, there are official federal government announcements you’re blocked from being able to read as retaliation for him not liking your speech.

          1. There are other ways of handling this. The government could set a rule that says, oh, I dunno, don’t keep an email server in your basement and do official government business on it. You know, I mean, I’m just spitballing here. But let’s pretend for a moment that such a rule existed. there’s nothing stopping the federal government from saying The Executive and any other government employee shall not make official statements on public networking forums that don’t come from an officially sanctioned account. If ye break this rule, you’re subject to sanctions and removal. In the case of Trump, it could be seen as a breach of ethics subject to impeachment.

          2. So there’s no confusion, what I’m saying here is, it could be argued that the President making official statements representing his position as head of the Executive branch on his personal account might be an impeachable offense, right here, right now, without any specific new rules being created.

            Impeachment doesn’t require a violation of statutory law, all it requires is a breach of ethics. Always remember, a President can be impeached for anything.

          3. If Twitter can arbitrarily dump your account for whatever reason they deem suitable, then we also have to question whether individuals should be allowed to view Trump’s tweets on his private handle vs. the POTUS account.

            The main issue here is whether tweets can be considered official records, related to the question of whether Hillary used a private server to avoid federal laws on archiving her emails. The crux of the problem becomes whether the public has a right to view and respond to Trump’s tweets on his personal feed, and Twitter has complicated this question because it reserves the right to shut down your account for whatever reason it chooses, particularly over nebulous definitions of “hate speech.”

            If Twitter can shut down accounts over speech it disagrees with, because it’s a private company, then we also need to look at whether cake makers or pizza shops can choose to not bake cakes or deliver pizza for gay weddings simply because it disagrees with them.

            1. Hillary used a private server to conduct official government business and had classified information pass through it.

              Twitter is a public forum run by a private company.

              This lawsuit is TDS.

          4. is that an official government annoucement or is it a redundant government announcement?

            Presumably there was an official press release.

            2nd question. Would it have been ok for him to not send that tweet? If so, there is no harm when a subset of people don’t see it while logged in to a particular account.

      4. How does that work? I have no Twitter account and I can go to twitter.com and see people’s tweets. What am I missing here?

        1. Outrage. You are missing outrage.

          Can’t people sign up for an email digest to be sent to an arbitrary email address?

      5. They’re blocked from seeing his tweets as well as from responding.

        Milo Yiannapoulos, banned from Twitter, is able to see Trump’s Tweets anytime he wants.

        Hell, you can just decide to NOT log in and see them any time you wish.

        1. This. It is a demonstrably false statement to say “I cannot see the president’s tweets, because he blocked me’.

          All it means is that your specific twitter account cannot see or respond to the President’s tweets. his tweets are still viewable, and can still be responded to.

          to make the statement true, you would have to say, “I cannot see or respond to the President’s tweets via [specific account name].”

          1. And, if this lawsuit is successful, I could sue DirecTV if I cannot watch the State of the Union speech if a big storm kills my reception.

            Winning!

    2. Can I sue to get into the White House press corps and ask questions during press conferences because of the First Amendment?

      Yes, you can: Sherrill v. Knight, 569 F.2d 124, 129 (D.C. Cir. 1977) (holding that First Amendment required White House to “publish or otherwise make publicly known the actual standard employed in determining whether an otherwise eligible journalist will obtain a White House press pass” and create an application and hearing process by which a party denied press credentials could challenge that denial).

      1. Yes, you can: Sherrill v. Knight, 569 F.2d 124, 129 (D.C. Cir. 1977) (holding that First Amendment required White House to “publish or otherwise make publicly known the actual standard employed in determining whether an otherwise eligible journalist will obtain a White House press pass” and create an application and hearing process by which a party denied press credentials could challenge that denial).

        I note the phrase “eligible journalist”

        So, no, you do not have a “right” to be in the WH Press Corps.

        If the WH uses a standard that says you’re not eligible, then surprise, you’re SOL.

  14. I don’t quite understand how Twitter works, so I’m not sure what’s going on here. But if I understand correctly, not being allowed to follow someone just means that your responses don’t get published on his page, or whatever it is.
    For a public figure, I don’t really see the point. Won’t any responses to Trump Tweets just get lost among thousands of others?
    I don’t really see a free speech issue either. There are plenty of platforms out there for people to declare what a poopy-head Trump is on.

    1. Being blocked means you can’t see their tweets either.

      1. No, being blocked means that your blocked account can’t see their tweets. If you create another account, then you’ll be able to see their tweets.

      2. I think I must have some deep misunderstanding of Twitter. As far as I can tell (not that I’ve put much time or thought into it), I can see anyone’s tweets I want to without having an account at all.

        1. You are correct, if you go to their twitter webpage. This lawsuit is positively ridiculous.

      3. You can literally just log out and see his tweets. Anyone with access to the Internet can open a twitter page.

        You know how you can see the cesspool that is the Reason comment section without being logged in, but you can’t comment unless you log in? It’s like that.

  15. It is not like there is one and only one way to speak about politics.
    It is not like there is no other way to communicate with the executive branch.
    It is not like there will ever be an outbreak of logic and reason among the pinko-commie-prog-liberal idiots.
    Can I sue to get every left wing thinker out there banished from all online communication?
    Do the courts mean anything anymore?

  16. a “right”?

  17. The idea that you have a constitutional right to follow the president on Twitter is not as silly as it might seem.

    Yes it is. If the president is… ‘not allowed’ to block people on his twitter account, the no one has a right to block people from their private twitter account. And that sets a horrible precedent. And, furthermore it’s entirely unlibertarian.

    If you agree with lawsuits premise, you agree with the precedent that the government can declare certain properties and institutions as ‘public accommodations’– ie ‘special’, and that’s the very precedent that’s already gotten us into so much trouble.

    If you agree that a court can declare @therealdonaldtrump as ‘special’, then there’s nothing stopping them from considering you ‘special’ if you can get a judge to agree.

    Except for those specifically banned, Trump’s Twitter account is open to all, and according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek “a typical Trump tweet” generates “20,000 or so replies.” As a result, says the Knight First Amendment Institute, the @realDonaldTrump account has become “an important public forum for speech by, to, and about the President.”

    Just like your bakery is a public accommodation? This lawsuit is bad, bad, bad.

    1. If you agree with lawsuits premise, you agree with the precedent that the government can declare certain properties and institutions as ‘public accommodations’– ie ‘special’, and that’s the very precedent that’s already gotten us into so much trouble.

      Remember, when it comes to gay marriage, Reason openly supports using public accommodation law to force people to do what they want.

      Assuming Reason opposes using public accommodation law as a weapon is not an assumption based on reality.

      1. They oppose public accommodation law, jt just makes them feel icky.

  18. Here we see another illustration of the rule which states that anytime a headline asks a question, the answer is always “no.”

  19. The crucial question is whether Trump has created the constitutional equivalent of a town hall on Twitter.

    Rowdy disruptions are usually dealt with by expulsion, and that’s usually pretty subjective. I’m not sure I like this analogy for their argument.

    Does Freedom of the Press (press being the device used for written communication; here Twitter) mean that you have a freedom to not distribute your – let’s say for the sake of analogy – crazy, mimeographed newsletter to certain people? Even if you’re in government office and your newsletter deals with your personal thoughts on events of the day?

    1. See my post above, it could be seen as an ethical violation and you could be subject to removal. But giving everyone in the world a right to receive your newsletter is bonkers. It’s not the proper solution. It’s exactly the wrong solution.

  20. If Trump were an ordinary Twitter user, he would be well within his rights to shun anyone who offends him.

    He uses a private account. He is within his rights to block anyone he wants. This is on par with (wrongly) saying it is a 1A violation to not hold press conferences or discriminate on who is allowed to attend said press conferences. The end.

  21. Twitter is a private company, and here we have an example of Reason claiming that a private company should be forced to remove the ‘block’ feature on a private citizens Twitter account because they happen to the be President.

    Honest question: Does the author of this piece believe that ‘old world’ news outlets such as the New York Times are obligated to publish White House Press Releases without any editing as a matter of law, and if they do not publish those P.R. pieces they are in violation of the 1st Amendment?

    Another question: does Sullum believe that we have a right to post whatever idiotic bullshit we want on someone’s twitter feed under the 1st amendment? If so, it would seem Twitter has been violating the law for years since people get banned on ‘newsworthy’ public persons Twitter accounts all the time. In other words, we should all start a class-action lawsuit against Twitter for violating the 1st Amendment thousands of times every day, correct?

    It is ludicrous to claim that just because a politician uses Twitter to get a message out that it somehow means that any yahoo can say whatever they want on a private companies platform. Make no mistake, Twitter could ban Trump himself and it would be legal.

    God damn, I know it’s been a long time since I took Media Law but this is the most retarded thing I’ll read all day. I hope.

  22. I don’t have a Twitter account but if I ever want to read the President’s tweets (or pretty much anyone else’s), I just need to type their name and the word “twitter” into google or another search engine and the first result takes me directly to their twitter account where I can read all of their tweets.

    This entire lawsuit is stupid and makes me really wish we had a loser-pays system where people who waste the court’s time with this nonsense had to reimburse the taxpayers for the cost.

  23. Comment threads on this issue leave me depressed about the sheer number of alleged libertarians who clearly have absolutely no fucking clue about even the most elementary aspects of free speech jurisprudence. (Pro tip: This lawsuit has nothing to do with “forcing” a private company to do anything — there’s no argument AFAIA that these users have violated Twitter’s ToS or that Twitter can’t ban them for whatever reasons its ToS permits.)

    1. There are no libertarians, just people pretending to be for various reasons.

      1. There are no Democrats, just socialists waiting to destroy the Constitution, silence dissent, kill opponents, destroy free market, and end Natural Rights once and for all.

  24. What is this jerk Sullum doing here? According to his absurd argument, one must be forced to listen or read crap no matter how irritating or bullying. Has Sullum ever made any sense on anything?

  25. If you’re too retarded to click “logout” or start a new browser session, I’m not too worried if your opinions are being “repressed”.

  26. Is the president not a human being like me? However, I wonder why the writer had to use the word “a right to the president”!

  27. The tweets may be official communications, but that does not mean that comments are. The commenters are not the President, and their comments are not official communications.

  28. Twitter wouldn’t have a block function if someone had a RIGHT to follow someone, so the answer is “no”.
    Just more anti-Trump crap. The desperation of the Left is pathetic.

  29. “But Trump is no ordinary Twitter user. He is the president of the United States”

    Wow! when did this happen? Has the news been covering this situation at all?

  30. The government can’t appropriate a private forum and declare it a “public forum” so they can regulate it, That is a violation of free speech just like the government taking over an news outlet so they can control editorial opinion.
    The government can’t control what President Trump says publicly and it certainly can’t control what he says on his Twitter feed or who he blocks.
    This is just another attempt to silence President Trump by the media and Left Wing who are annoyed that Trump can communicate directly to the public without his comments first being filtered by the media.

  31. Private account so waste of money.

  32. Do You Have a Right to Follow the President on Twitter?

    LOL, nope.

  33. This have been one thing i am looking for free twitter followers online from many month.

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