A group of Twitter users have filed a lawsuit against US President Donald Trump for blocking them on the social networking website, saying the move violates their right to free speech.
The claimants said in their lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, that Trump had violated their First Amendment rights by blocking them in response to their unfavorable posts about him or his administration.
“President Trump’s Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, has become an important source of news and information about the government, and an important public forum for speech by, to, and about the President,” read the lawsuit, filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University on behalf of seven Twitter users.
“In an effort to suppress dissent in this forum, Defendants have excluded – ‘blocked’ – Twitter users who have criticized the President or his policies. This practice is unconstitutional, and this suit seeks to end it,” it added.
The lawsuit also sues White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Daniel Scavino, the White House’s Social Media Director, arguing that “upon information and belief” both of them have the ability to block and unblock people who interact with Trump’s account.
One of the users, identified in court filings as Ms. Buckwalter, apparently was blocked after replying to Trump with a tweet that gathered “9,033 likes and 3,371 retweets.”
The Knight Institute decided to sue Trump nearly a month after it sent a letter to the new Republican president, asking him to unblock the users it represented.
The letter described Trump’s Twitter account as a “designated public forum for First Amendment purposes” and denounced blocking people from it based on their views as “unconstitutional.”
“We ask that you unblock them and any others who have been blocked for similar reasons,” read the letter.
With a growing followership of over 33 million users, Trump has been using Twitter to promote his agenda and push back against what he calls “fake news media.”
The former reality TV star’s frequent use of the platform, which has led to many controversies, have earned Trump the nickname Twitter-in-Chief.