Columbia University's Knight First Amendment Institute has filed a suit against President Trump, alleging that Trump has breached the First Amendment rights of those he has blocked on Twitter.
No, this is not a joke.
The institute contends that Twitter is a "public forum" and that because Trump's speech is government speech, no Americans can be restrained from interacting with the president.
Let's be clear, this is a very silly lawsuit.
Jameel Jaffer, head of the Knight Institute says that the First Amendment "applies to [Twitter] in the same way it applies to town halls and open school board meetings." Correspondingly, Jaffer contends, just as government cannot deny access to public events on the basis of individual views, it cannot contest access to Trump's tweets.
Jaffer is wrong.
While Twitter is likely a traditional public forum under the law (a forum, like public streets, entitled to the most stringent deference from government), Trump's Twitter account is not. Yes, because Trump is a government representative his tweets must be, and are, recorded. Yet just as Trump does not have the responsibility to open the Oval Office to any citizen who wishes to meet him, neither must he allow interactive access on Twitter.
In part, that's because being blocked by Trump does not overly preclude one's ability to engage with Trump.
Critics of the president remain able to state their opinions of Trump after being blocked. A president is not required to listen to their critics, they are simply not allowed to prevent critics from speaking. And blocked individuals have alternatives to see what Trump has said. They are able to set up an alternate account, they can read news reports on Trump's tweets, or they can follow other Twitter accounts that retweet Trump's tweets. This ensures that the Twitter public forum remains open.
Functionally, the key issue here is that Trump's Twitter account is not designed to be an interactive forum. Whether right or wrong, the president uses his account to tweet whatever he is thinking at any one moment. It is his megaphone. He does not use Twitter as a means of debating policy with other users. Even then, Trump is under no particular obligation to take a question from a specific individual.
It might be different if blocked individuals had no means of knowing what Trump was tweeting, but that's patently not the case here.
Ultimately, the First Amendment exists to protect maximal speech on issues of public concern. And while Trump has shown a worrying tendency towards authoritarian notions of speech, his Twitter privileges are his alone.