Trump Told to Mute, Not Block, Twitter Users By Federal Judge On First Amendment Grounds
09 March, 2018, 10:21
A federal judge looking for a solution before ruling on a case is suggesting that President Donald Trumpmute people he does not wish to see on Twitter, rather than block them. Baer also argued that by blocking followers, Trump is not regulating access to a public forum and therefore not violating the First Amendment. That's the very strong suggestion of U.S. District Court Naomi Reice Buchwald in NY, who is presiding over a lawsuit brought against Trump by when seven blocked Twitter users and Columbia University's Knight First Amendment Institute. The person looking to speak directly to Trump might not be able to engage with him, but they would still be able to discuss their views with anyone else.
"Why are we here?" she asked.
We wait with bated breath to see if these seven people will be allowed back into the tumultuous hellscape that is our president's social media.
The seven plaintiffs, though, are among "a few hundred" blocked by Trump, according to Ujala Sehgal, communications director at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which also joined the suit. The government has moved to have the case dismissed.
Lawyers on both sides said they would consider the muting solution and consult with their clients, the Associated Pressreported Thursday.
Justice Department lawyer Michael Baer, however, said that both muting and blocking users on Twitter are "within the president's associational freedoms".
It's doubtful President Trump reads many, if any, tweets sent to him.
"It creates all these additional barriers", she said.
Plaintiffs in the case blocked by the president include political consultant Rebecca Buckwalter, University of Maryland sociology professor Philip Cohen, Grammy-nominated songwriter Holly Figueroa, Vanderbilt University surgeon Eugene Gu, former Guantanamo Bay prison guard Brandon Neely, retired cyclist Joseph Papp and comedy writer Nicholas Pappas. "He can avoid hearing them by muting them". "I don't think it's a flawless solution, but it's far less restrictive", Fallow said.
Twitter lets users post short texts, called tweets, to which other users may respond.
"At first I was kind of proud, like 'oh he cares about me, '" Cohen said. But unlike Twitter, the hearing never turned contentious. Buchwald said that if a government official were to turn off the microphone at such an event in order to suppress unfavorable perspectives, that would understandably raise First Amendment questions.
Buchwald appeared skeptical of that argument, noting that the Twitter blocks can affect users beyond just those who are blocked. At one point, Baer offered his own analogy, saying that the president can choose to ignore protesters or even change locations at an event to make it more hard for the protester to reach him.
"Once it is a public forum, you can't shut somebody up because you don't like what they're saying", Buchwald said. He is the president, after all, and his tweets are largely accepted to be official statements from the White House. And the defense has stressed the fact that everyone who is blocked by the president can still view his tweets by logging out of their accounts, and that they still have many other ways to petition the government.
Trump's tweets, which cover everything from public policy to what he sees on television and attacks on Democrats, are seen by millions of people and often draw tens of thousands of comments each. "Over time, his account has become an important source of news and information about the administration - and about the president's disposition as well". "This is an official account and it is being used as a forum for speech".
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