Out in the Open

'I was blocked by the President of the United States on Twitter'

Three different people from different backgrounds talk about their experiences being blocked by Donald Trump on Twitter and what it has ultimately meant for them.

Three different people from different backgrounds talk about their experiences being blocked by Donald Trump.

A screenshot of Holly O'Reilly's reaction to being blocked by Donald Trump on Twitter. (Courtesy of Holly O'Reilly)

What do a political organizer, a veteran, and a White House reporter all have in common?

All three of them were blocked by the 45th President of the United States on Twitter. 

"I couldn't believe that it was real," political organizer Holly O'Reilly says. "Like the President of the United States took time out of his, I guess, busy schedule to block me with his own little thumbs.. on Twitter. So, I was shocked. I was, I was incredulous. I kind of laughed at it at first."

But soon, the seriousness of the blocking started to settle in.

"When he started blocking people and organizations who should never be blocked from what the President is Tweeting and what his office says are formal and official White House and Presidential statements.. that's when I started to get angry."

"It didn't take very much out of my day to reply with dumb memes and Tweets to Trump. It took like five minutes max out of my day to do that. So for me, it isn't a huge issue for me personally. But, more broadly, I think that it's a huge First Amendment rights issue.When you talk about several hundred, possibly or maybe even thousands of people who are blocked from seeing the President's Tweets, the President's statements."

Will Fischer is the Director of Government relations for VoteVets.org, which represents more than 500, 000 veterans from all 50 states. 

Will couldn't believe that the blocking was real at first.

"The first thing I thought was wow I wonder what kind of  group I've joined. It was only a few hours later that I found out that the American author Stephen King had been blocked the same morning we had. And since then, quite a few other folks including many other of my fellow veterans have also lifted up the fact that they've been blocked by the President of the United States on Twitter as well."

Will finds the fact that a group of Veterans have been blocked by the President very troubling. But he also thinks that this won't stop the VoteVets Organization from communicating their opposition to the President.

J.D. Durkin is a Whitehouse Reporter for Cheddar, a Digital News network broadcast live from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. 

When he was blocked, he was writing what he thought were non-partisan Tweets clarifying a few things that Donald Trump had tweeted about regarding the Stock Market. Only hours later he was blocked by the President.

"Being blocked by the President on Twitter is, although I understand it to be very funny and I appreciate that people have said 'oh it's a badge of honour, you should be proud, laugh it off', it is serious. And I do fundamentally believe that it is a violation of a form of a First Amendment right. And I think the long standing argument for that that I fall on, and I think a lot of the rhetoric that you'd hear other journalists and kind of legacy White House reporters argue is that look, we've been defending the merits of the First Amendment for over 200 years in this country."

He says as we enter the digital age, laws need to be reformulated to protect people against this violation.

The future for these three and others blocked by Trump remains unclear. Recently, a group of people blocked by Trump on Twitter filed a lawsuit against him for the blockings. They are being represented by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. 

This story originally aired on September 10, 2017. It appears in the Out in the Open episode "Blacklisted".