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Georgetown Law Joins Columbia in Trump Twitter Challenge

A couple of powerful educational institutions have now taken direct aim at the Tweeter-in-Chief.

Georgetown Law's Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) has joined with Columbia's Knight Center to challenge President Donald Trump's use of Twitter as a government created public discussions and that the President's discrimination against some speakers is a violation of the First Amendment.

ICAP has filed an amicus brief in support of the Knight Center's lawsuit challenging the President's practice of blocking critical tweets on his @realDonaldTrump feed.

The President is famously testy about criticism, particularly critical news stories, which he has branded fake news and efforts to bring down his administration. Knight warned the President back in June that it would sue if he did not unblock Tweeters who had been blocked because of their viewpoints, but said the White House did not respond.

ICAP argued, as did Knight, that by including official statements of government policy on his feed--the White House has said that, yes, the Presidents tweets are official statements, as well as responses by some Twitter users, and the President's responses to those, he has created a digital public forum, where precedent makes clear that viewpoint discrimination--blocking critics but allowing supporters, is a violation of free speech protections under the First Amendment.

“When the government creates a space for public discussion and debate, whether in a physical or virtual setting, it creates a public forum," said ICAP executive director Joshua Geltzer. "The Constitution then bars the government from silencing those who question it and giving voice only to those who praise it.”

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ICAP says viewpoint discrimination by the government threatens the use of social media as a "crucial" setting for debate.

The brief argues that it is part of the standard playbook of authoritarian regimes that cultivate the sense that leaders must be adored, not criticized.

ICAP asked the court to prevent social media sites like Twitter from "being exploited by government officials to silence critics and bask in artificial adulation.”

The suit was filed in the Southern District of New York.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.