Yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, lawyers from the Knight First Amendment Institute and the Department of Justice argued the lawsuit against President Trump and his staff for blocking us on Twitter, in which I’m a plaintiff.
After the two-hour hearing, just like in Law and Order, the news media met us with cameras and microphones as we came down the stairs of the courthouse, and I realized I hadn’t prepared what I would say. The first questions focused on a suggestion by the judge that Trump should just mute his critics on Trump instead of blocking us. Was this the solution? I hadn’t had time to consider it carefully, and we haven’t received any kind of settlement offer. So I said this:
Honestly I don’t know if muting is really the solution. But if all they really care about, which they say, is that he just doesn’t want to hear from us, then he would mute, but obviously he wants to suppress our speech. Obviously he doesn’t want us to be participating in the forum. He wants to look out at the world on Twitter, and see that everybody agrees with him and everybody thinks he’s great – and the fact is that’s not true – and that’s why he blocks us. He literally blocks us so that we won’t be seen to be expressing our views against him, and I think that’s outrageous and I’m glad that it’s apparently illegal.
Here are a few media links.
Columbia Journalism Review: In downtown New York, a First Amendment fight over Trump’s tweets
“I never thought he would block me. I tweeted at him all the time,” Cohen told CJR outside court. He’d just watched attorneys from the Knight First Amendment Institute tell a federal judge that in blocking Cohen because he didn’t like his tweet, the president had engaged in unconstitutional discrimination based on viewpoint. The Knight Institute, which is based at Columbia University, is representing Cohen and six other plaintiffs—a surgeon, a comic, a musician-activist, two writers, and a police officer—in a bid to qualify Trump’s Twitter as a public forum; part of a broader push to protect the First Amendment from a president who clearly does not respect it.
A federal judge in Manhattan had plenty of questions for lawyers representing a group of Twitter users who sued President Trump in July after he blocked them on the social media service. And she had even more for the government.
The seven users, who had been blocked by the @realDonaldTrump account after criticizing the president, were joined in the lawsuit by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. Their lawyers claimed that Mr. Trump’s Twitter feed is an official government account and that blocking users from following it was a violation of their First Amendment rights.
Lawyers from the Department of Justice insisted that the Twitter feed was not, in fact, a public forum. Furthermore, they argued, no one had been meaningfully excluded from it.
Courthouse News, with the courthouse steps statements:
New York City Fox 5 news, with some followup interviews:
Agence France Press, published by Daily Mail: Twitter-blocked by Trump? Judge hears ‘free-speech’ case
Philip Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland, said he was summarily blocked in June 2017 after he reacted to a Trump tweet by replying with a photo of the president superimposed with the words “Corrupt Incompetent Authoritarian”.
“At first I was kind of proud, like ‘oh he cares about me,'” Cohen said.
“But then very quickly I realized that a lot fewer people were seeing my tweets and my political efficacy, my ability to speak to my fellow citizens, was impaired by that. And I think that’s not the way our government should act.”
What’s private catharsis for the rest of us can be rightly seen as government retaliation when it’s a public official who goes on a blocking spree.
And a photo by Scott Matthews:
These are just a few clips, mostly my scrap-booking for the day. I’ll write more later. Read all the case documents and statements, including those of the other plaintiffs, from the amazing Knight First Amendment Institute here.