Not only is Donald Trump the first American president to aggressively use Twitter, he's also the first to invite a possible constitutional crisis because of it.
The case, heard by Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of the U.S. District Court, was brought by seven - Seven! - users who'd been blocked by Trump. "Instead of blocking, he mutes them", she suggested - meaning Trump simply wouldn't see their responses.
"Why are we here?" she asked. "Don't we have a solution that serves the interests of the plaintiffs, serves the interests of the president?" The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University is suing Trump on behalf of seven people he has blocked, contending the president is not merely acting thin-skinned but also flouting the Constitution. The government has moved to have the case dismissed.
This common sense solution was broadly welcomed by Knight Institute lawyer Katherine Fallow who said: "It's not a ideal solution, but certainly, it is a pretty good one". But lawyers on both sides said they could consider that.
Buchwald asked, "Why are we here?"
"It might be better to resolve it in a practical fashion", she said.
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"Once it is a public forum, you can't shut somebody up because you don't like what they're saying", Buchwald said. Buckwalter, a journalist at the liberal blog Daily Kos, and Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland, were blocked by Trump in June of past year. He said that would be a better solution than just blocking people based on their viewpoint.
A block prevents someone from seeing or responding to a Tweet. It was never my point.
"When you're blocking them from an account you're not blocking them from a place where individuals can interact with other individuals", Mr. Baer said, Bloomberg reported.
It's doubtful President Trump reads many, if any, tweets sent to him.
Fallow argued in court on Thursday that Trump's account is a public forum that he uses to announce policies or policy proposals. This, they claim, infringes on their First Amendment rights. "This is an official account and it is being used as a forum for speech". She suggested if they don't work it out on their own, they might not like what she chooses. "Those who are blocked from the account are impeded in their ability to learn information that is shared only through that account". Blocking certain users for mocking or criticizing the President, Fallow argued, is like Trump standing at the door of a public event and picking who's allowed to enter and participate in the debate. "Over time, his account has become an important source of news and information about the administration - and about the president's disposition as well".
Barring a settlement, the judge told the parties she'd make a ruling soon. "As to the muting, I think that is an option".