MANHATTAN (CN) — A year after prevailing in their protest of President Donald Trump’s Twitter blockade, the Knight First Amendment Institute claims in a new federal lawsuit that not much has changed.
"It shouldn't take another lawsuit to get the president to respect the rule of law and to stop blocking people simply because he doesn't like what they're posting," Katie Fallow, senior staff attorney at the Knight Institute, said in a release.
Trump and his staff did unblock the original seven plaintiffs, but Knight says the president failed to unblock a number of other individuals, including five new plaintiffs.
“The first category of individuals who were blocked from the account during President Trump's presidency but who cannot specify, or provide a copy of, the specific tweet that provokes Defendants to block them,” according to the complaint filed Friday in New York’s Southern District. “The second category comprises individuals who were blocked from the account before President Trump was inaugurated but whom defendants continue to block today.”
It was one year ago this month that the Second Circuit ruled it unconstitutional for Trump to block users who criticize him — affirming a federal judge’s ruling that the block was a First Amendment violation.
Megan Ackerman, a digital specialist with the American Federation of Teachers; Ellen Brodsky is a freelance writer, blogger and researcher; Darragh Burgess, a caregiver and former teacher; Donald Moynihan, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University; and Elizabeth West, an actor, have all been blocked from @realDonaldTrump. The Knight First Amendment Institute is aware of 27 more individuals who have been blocked.
Burgess and Moynihan fall into the first category and don’t know what tweet provoked them to be blocked; Ackerman, Brodsky, and West were blocked before Trump’s inauguration. None of the five have Twitter followings of more than 10,000 people. West has the most with 7,400 followers.
On July 20, 2020, according to the complaint, defendants informed the Knight Institute again that “Donald Trump does not intend to unblock persons who were blocked prior to his inauguration or who cannot identify a tweet that preceded and allegedly precipitated the blocking.”
Ackerman was blocked in December 2015, the same day she tweeted from her @MissMeganEmily account to draw attention to a critical email that she had sent to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign on behalf of Bend the Arc, a Jewish advocacy organization. Brodsky doesn’t know what tweet got her blocked, but she discovered it on July 21, 2016.
Brodsky was generally critical of Trump's purported investigation into whether then President Barack Obama was born in the United States.
The blocking of the plaintiffs from his tweets prevents or impedes them from viewing the president’s tweets; from replying to these tweets; from viewing the comment threads associated with these tweets; and from participating in the comment threads.
Knight says Trump’s continued block of users “unconstitutionally restricts their rights to read or participate in the discussion occurring in the public forum of the @realDonaldTrump account.”
“It also unconstitutionally restricts their right to access statements that Defendants are otherwise making available to the public at large, and their right to petition the government for redress of grievances,” the complaint states.
The Second Circuit was emphatic that Trump’s Twitter account is not private. “We conclude that the evidence of the official nature of the account is overwhelming,” U.S. Circuit Judge Barrington Parker wrote for a three-judge panel last year.
“We also conclude that once the president has chosen a platform and opened up its interactive space to millions of users and participants, he may not selectively exclude those whose views he disagrees with.”
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