The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University is suing President Donald Trump for continuing to block several Twitter users from his @RealDonaldTrump account even after several federal courts ruled the practice unconstitutional.
Filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on July 31st, the suit claims that the president has continued to block two categories of individuals:
- “[I]ndividuals who were blocked during Trump’s presidency but cannot specify, provide a copy of, the specific tweet that provoked the Defendants to block them.”
- “[I]ndividuals who were blocked from the account before President Trump was inaugurated but whom Defendants continue to block today.”
According to the complaint, the President’s staff told the Knight Institute as recently as July 20nd that the President “does not intend to unblock persons who were blocked prior to his inauguration or who cannot identify a tweet that proceeded and allegedly precipitated the blocking.”
One of the users who still cannot access the president’s account, Donald Moynihan, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University, said that he often replied to the President’s tweets before he was blocked. Moynihan knows he was blocked on July 21, 2017 but, because he sometimes deletes older tweets, is not certain which tweet prompted the blocking.
“Plaintiffs bring this lawsuit to compel Defendants to unblock these other accounts and allow their users to participate once again in the public forum that Defendants established,” the complaint states.
The Knight Institute first challenged Trump’s practice of blocking his Twitter critics in 2017. The First Amendment-focused litigation group argued that the President’s personal Twitter account functioned like a public forum, and that blocking certain users from accessing his account constituted viewpoint discrimination.
In 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York sided with the Knight Institute and ordered the President to unblock users. After the president appealed the district court’s ruling, theU.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the lower court’s decision.