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Lawyers Clash in Manhattan Court Over Trump's Right to Block Twitter Users

© AP Photo / J. David Ake, File / This April 3, 2017, file photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump's Twitter feed on a computer screen in Washington
This April 3, 2017, file photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump's Twitter feed on a computer screen in Washington - Sputnik International
US President Donald Trump is well-known for his love of the social network Twitter, which he joined back in 2009. Attention to Trump's Twitter activity significantly increased during his 2016 election campaign.

US President Donald Trump's lawyers have claimed in a court that the president has the right to block any follower of his Twitter account as it's a strictly personal matter, the Bloomberg news agency reported on Thursday.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University sued Donald Trump and several members of his staff last summer on behalf of several users, who claimed that the US president blocked then on Twitter after they had replied to his messages.

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According to the plaintiffs' lawyer Katherine Fallow, Trump's move violates the first amendment as it constitutes a government action because the president operates in his official capacity and employs White House staff to help him with his Twitter account. Furthermore, the plaintiffs claimed that a Twitter account was a public forum, open for talks, thus making their speech protected.

"He is operating it like a virtual town hall," Fallow said, adding that "blocking it is a state action and violates the First Amendment. This is an official account and it is being used as a forum for speech."

At the same time, Assistant US Attorney Michael H. Baer called on US District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald at a federal court in Manhattan to dismiss the case, claiming that Twitter was more like a convention where an official can choose with whom they talk.

"When you're blocking them from an account you're not blocking them from a place where individuals can interact with other individuals," Baer said.

The judge, however, has refused to announce her decision yet, urging both sides to settle the issue outside of court.

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