President Trump Faces A Legal Battle Over His Private Twitter Account

Donald Trump’s Twitter account, @realdonaldtrump, which is not to be confused with the official White House account, @potus, is under fire for the way in which President Trump has been handling the account. The president has been blocking his critics on Twitter from viewing his personal account and, in response, Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute has joined with a group of seven other users of the social media site to sue Trump. The suit contends that the president’s use of Twitter’s blocking feature violates their First Amendment rights.
Is @realdonaldtrump Really a Private Account?
That’s the question that is at the heart of this lawsuit and, in this instance, it’s not easily answered. While Donald Trump opened his Twitter account before he was ever elected, he has since used the account to share official news and his own thoughts as president. For example, he uses the account to promote legislation, highlight supporters, and draw attention to those he views as disloyal.
In light of those kinds of posts, it would seem that, although Donald Trump may have started the account as a private citizen, he now treats it as a public forum. That, essentially, is the basis for the lawsuit from those critics who the president has blocked. They argue that the president treats the account as a public forum, which has risen to amass 20 million more followers than the @potus account, and therefore should be viewed as such by others. In light of that, President Trump’s blocking action is a violation of First Amendment rights.
The Department of Justice Responds to the Lawsuit
The Justice Department is representing President Trump in this matter and has offered an answer to the complaint, arguing that @realdonaldtrump is and always has been a private Twitter account. They assert that the account was initiated by a private individual with a private company and has nothing to do with the office of the president.
“The president does not operate his personal Twitter account by virtue of federal law, nor is blocking made possible because the President is clothed in Article II powers,” the Justice Department stated in the court documents.
Further, the brief admits that the president may make official announcements via his private account, but that doesn’t make the account an official state outlet. They also point out that not every tweet published on @realdonaldtrump is official state business. The Department of Justice argues that Knight Institute and other critics of the president do not have standing to bring their case against the presidency and cannot win the injunction to prevent Donald Trump from blocking Twitter users from viewing his personal account.
The case will move forward on November 3, when the plaintiffs, which comprises the group of blocked Twitter users, respond to the DOJ’s request for summary judgment.

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