A police officer, a songwriter and a surgeon who were blocked on Twitter by Donald Trump after writing critical posts are among a group suing the President.
A lawsuit has been filed by seven Twitter users who have fallen foul of the commander-in-chief.
They are joined by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in accusing Trump of trying to ‘suppress dissent’ after they criticized him on the social network.
Legal papers state: ‘In an effort to suppress dissent in this forum, Defendants have excluded—’blocked’—Twitter users who have criticized the President or his policies.
– An organization based in New York which that works to defend and strengthen the freedoms of speech and the press in the digital age through strategic litigation, research, and public education.
– A Washington, DC, writer and political consultant, who says she was blocked by Trump after a tweet about the administration’s links to Russia.
– A professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park
– A political organizer and songwriter who resides in Mercer Island, WA.
– A resident in general surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the CEO of Ganogen Research Institute, who lives in Nashville.
– A police officer from Tomball, TX
– A former professional road cyclist and current anti-doping advocate and author who resides in Bethel Park, PA.
– A New York comic and writer
‘This practice is unconstitutional, and this suit seeks to end it.’
The lawsuit also claims they are suffering ‘irreparable injury to their First Amended rights’ after they were blocked.
Writing in PacificStandard, Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza – one of the Twitter users blocked by the President, wrote: ‘Getting blocked has kept me from participating in public conversations in response to and about the president.
‘I can’t see or reply to Trump’s account, or see which of his tweets others are quoting and commenting on from my own account.
‘In sum, I’m prevented from talking to those who are responding to his tweets, learning their views, and sharing my own views.’
And she continued: ‘I’ve traveled and lived in countries where voicing dissent can have negative repercussions.
‘Not once had I ever thought I might have to fear losing rights for expressing my political views in the U.S. Feeling silenced and marginalized at home has shaken me.’
The suit says that the way Trump uses his Twitter account, it is a public forum under the First Amendment, and said tweets by the President are treated as ‘official statements’.
It states: ‘Because of their criticism of the President, these Plaintiffs have been prevented or impeded from viewing the President’s tweets, from replying to the tweets, from viewing the discussions associated with the tweets, and from participating in those discussions.’
The document continues to say that Twitter users ‘are now deprived of their right to read the speech of the dissenters who have been blocked’.
Another plaintiff, Philip Cohen, wrote in a blog post: ‘Being blocked by Trump diminished my ability to respond and engage in the political process.
‘There has been measurable impact on my ability to be heard. Yes, I can still say what I want to say, but not to those I want to speak to, when I want to say it or in the way that means the most to me.
‘It’s disempowering to be prohibited from speaking. And I’m troubled that the president can create a space on Twitter — where there are millions of people — that he can manipulate to give the impression that more people agree with him than actually do.’
The US Department of Justice has dismissed the lawsuit. A spokesman told the New York Daily News: ‘This lawsuit has no merit and we will be filing responsive documents shortly.’
The White House has declined to comment, saying it does not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit concludes: ‘Plaintiffs respectfully ask that the Court declare that the viewpoint-based exclusion of the individual Plaintiffs violates the First Amendment, and order the Defendants to restore their access.’