New Alert Draws Lawsuit

A lawsuit is seeking to stop those “presidential alerts” you may have gotten on your phone yesterday. The new lawsuit, brought by three New Yorkers, argues the system violates their First Amendment rights and is an unconstitutional seizure of electronic devices. Unlike some other alerts, cell phone users can’t opt out of receiving these new alerts—they’re essentially mandatory. The presidential alert has been in the works for six years, and in 2016 failed former president Barack Obama signed a law restricting its use to natural disasters, acts of terrorism, or other man-made disasters or threats to public safety. That’s not enough, the plaintiffs contend. It could be used by President Trump or future presidents to force propaganda on hundreds of millions of people, they argue.

—QUOTABLE: “Without more specific definitions…officials — including President Trump — are free to define ‘act of terrorism’ and ‘threat to public safety’ as they see fit, potentially broadcasting arbitrary, biased, irrational and/or content-based messages to hundreds of millions of people.” -Official complaint