Legal experts debate whether President Trump blocking Twitter users violates First Amendment

Jul 12, 2017

Donald Trump inherits the @POTUS Twitter account created during the Obama administration.

Donald Trump inherits the @POTUS Twitter account created during the Obama administration.; Credit: /@POTUS/Screenshot by NPR


Seven twitter users blocked from seeing tweets from President Trump’s personal Twitter account are suing him in federal court, arguing that he violated their First Amendment rights by doing so.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed the lawsuit on Tuesday on behalf of the seven users who drew the president’s digital ire by criticizing him openly on the social media platform. It argues that the president’s account is a public forum where information about the government is provided. By blocking users who disagree with his policies or openly criticize him, the lawsuit argues, Trump is squashing constructive debate simply because they disagree with him, and that violates the First Amendment.

Some legal experts say this could be a hard slog for the Knight Institute because it’s unclear in what capacity Trump is using the “@realDonaldTrump” handle. He has an official handle, “@POTUS,” that he inherited from President Obama as the official Twitter account of the U.S. President, but some say it could be argued that the intent of the @realDonaldTrump account is for personal use, as Trump sends his own tweets in his own words and did so from that account well before his election.

Do you think the president violated the First Amendment when he blocked users from his personal account? In what capacity do you see President Trump using his personal account versus the more official account?


Katie Fallow, senior attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University

Eugene Volokh, professor of law at UCLA and founder of The Volokh Conspiracy blog on the Washington Post

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