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Three New Yorkers Peeved at National Emergency Alert Are Suing Trump

Litigants fret that the commander-in-chief will issue 'arbitrary, biased, irrational' messages

Three litigious New Yorkers are suing President Donald Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) over the “presidential alert” text message that went out on Wednesday, CNET reports.

The first presidential alert went out Wednesday at 2:18 p.m. EST as a test run — and apparently rattled these three Big Apple residents. There was no emergency.

The presidential alerts are for emergency situations only, as has been widely noted. The president directs FEMA to issue the alert; FEMA then issues the alert. But the plaintiffs in this lawsuit say they’re afraid Trump will misuse the system and will send “weaponized disinformation” to their cellphones whenever he likes.

“Plaintiffs are American citizens who do not wish to receive text messages, or messages of any kind, on any topic or subject, from defendant Trump,” the complaint reads, said CNET. “His rise to power was facilitated by weaponized disinformation that he broadcast into the public information sphere via Twitter in addition to traditional mass media.”

The plaintiffs added that they’re concerned Trump will send “arbitrary, biased [and] irrational” messages instead of true emergency alerts. Since it’s not exactly clear what constitutes an “emergency,” they said, Trump will be free to call anything an “act of terrorism” and “threat to public safety” — and therefore order an alert.

The plaintiffs’ main complaint is that presidential alerts are compulsory — there’s no way to opt out of receiving them. They argue that under civil rights law, the government cannot use cellphones to compel listening — and that the alert will “trespass into and hijack” their devices without a warrant or individual consent.

The plaintiffs added that, in addition to the vagueness of the law, the text messages violate their constitutional right to free speech and their Fourth Amendment rights against search and seizure; the “logic” here is that the text messages constitute an unreasonable “seizure” of their cellphones.

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Concerns about the FEMA mass text messages aren’t new, noted The Daily Wire; various civil rights organizations raised an alarm over the program when then-President Barack Obama signed it into law in 2016.

The law specifies that the program “shall not be used to transmit a message that does not relate to a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or other man-made disaster or threat to public safety,” but detractors argue this doesn’t go far enough in defining the terms.

The three litigants probably wish they were among those who, for whatever reason, did not receive the alert on Wednesday; at least four staffers at Wired magazine with phones on major carriers didn’t receive the alerts, that publication noted; many reported the same thing on social media, they said.

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