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Law professors file brief backing suit against Trump's Twitter blockades

Law professors file brief backing suit against Trump's Twitter blockades
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Law professors are accusing President Trump of acting like a dictator by blocking critics from his Twitter account.

Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of seven professors Monday in support of the Columbia Knight First Amendment Institute’s lawsuit challenging Trump’s ability to block opponents from his @realDonaldTrump Twitter feed.

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The group, which includes Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California Berkeley School of Law, said “such practices are a familiar playbook for authoritarian regimes.”

“False impression that political leaders are adored by the public is critical to warping the public’s understanding of how those leaders are really viewed by the public and, in turn, to quashing democratic impulses,” they wrote.

In the 26-page brief, the legal scholars argue Trump has violated the First Amendment rights of critics he has blocked from commenting on his account.

“These efforts harm the blocked users by denying them the opportunity to participate fully in the rapid, ongoing conversations occurring on social media,” they wrote.

“But more fundamentally, efforts to block users based on their criticism of the government threaten the very dangers that the First Amendment’s ban on viewpoint discrimination seeks to prevent: allowing the government to silence its critics, foster warped perceptions of officials’ popularity, and chill dissenting voices who may avoid speaking out for fear of reprisal."

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed the lawsuit in July on behalf of seven people who were blocked from the president’s @realDonaldTrump account, preventing them from viewing or replying to his tweets or viewing and participating in discussions associated with his tweets.

Because Trump and his aides have made clear that they consider statements published on @realDonaldTrump to be official statements, the Knight First Amendment Institute argues the president has imposed an unconstitutional restriction on the plaintiffs' participation in a designated public forum, right to access statements that defendants are otherwise making available to the public at large and right to petition the government for redress of grievances.