Blocked by Trump on TWITTER Crusaders take case to court
Holly Figueroa O’Reilly has joined others in a lawsuit that accuses the president of violating her first amendment rights. Will she succeed?
Wed 7 Mar 2018 06.00 EST Last modified on Wed 7 Mar 2018 06.02 EST
When Donald Trump took the nuclear option, it seemed funny at first, said Holly Figueroa O’Reilly.
After the 2016 election, Figueroa O’Reilly, who describes herself as a political moderate and the president as an “idiot”, became a persistent critic of Trump on Twitter, which allows users to target one another with messages.
But Figueroa O’Reilly, 47, a songwriter and a mother of five from Seattle, apparently crossed an invisible line last spring when she replied to a Trump tweet about the British prime minister with a short video that showed a smile dropping off Pope Francis’s face in a meeting with the US president.
“This is pretty much how the whole world sees you,” Figueroa O’Reilly wrote to Trump.
This is pretty much how the whole world sees you.#AMJoy#SundayMorning pic.twitter.com/CycqYnKg8b
And with that, the presidential axe fell. Figueroa O’Reilly found herself blocked. Her president had adopted the signature move of infuriated online warriors everywhere by banishing her from his feed.
“The first thing that I did was just laugh, because I thought: this has got to be a mistake,” Figueroa O’Reilly told the Guardian. “Why is the most powerful man in the world blocking me on Twitter?”
But Figueroa O’Reilly began to think differently about the episode when she realized she wasn’t alone. In fact, the president has blocked hundreds of US citizens on Twitter, meaning they cannot see or reply to messages from the commander-in-chief, or be seen in those interactions by other users.
“That’s when it started to sink in, when I realized that it had real-world implications far beyond myself,” Figueroa O’Reilly said. “It’s not that I’m not being heard. I don’t care. I think that having people who don’t agree with him have a voice – that’s what’s important.”
Figueroa O’Reilly is now a co-plaintiff in a high-profile free-speech lawsuit that accuses the president of violating her first amendment rights by silencing her in an online forum maintained by him and select aides. Oral arguments in the case, brought in US district court by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, are scheduled for Thursday in New York.
The case is being watched closely not only for its curiosity value, but also as a test of how courts will apply the first amendment in the context of public officials’ use of social media accounts, at a time when the role of social networks in politics has generated intense controversy.
Can elected officials block their constituents? Or are social media accounts essential avenues for citizens to petition leaders? Is it the constitutional right of all Americans to start an online flame war with the politician of their choice, as the founders surely intended?Read More...