By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal judge is expected to hear arguments on Thursday about whether President Donald Trump violated Twitter users’ free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution by blocking them from his account.
The arguments before U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan are part of a lawsuit brought last July by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and several individual Twitter users.
Trump and the plaintiffs are seeking summary judgment, asking Buchwald to decide the case in their favor without a trial.
Twitter lets users post short snippets of text, called tweets. Other users may respond to those tweets. When one user blocks another, the blocked user cannot respond to the blocker’s tweets.
The plaintiffs have accused Trump of blocking a number of accounts whose owners criticized, mocked or disagreed with him in replies to his tweets.
They argued that Trump’s Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, is a public forum, and that denying them access based on their views violates the First Amendment.
Trump in court papers countered that his use of Twitter is personal, not a “state action.”
Even if it were a state action, he said, his use of Twitter was a form of “government speech,” not a public forum.
Trump’s Twitter use draws intense interest for his unvarnished commentary, including attacks on critics. His tweets often shape news and are retweeted tens of thousands of times.
(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Susan Thomas)