Three New Yorkers are attempting to halt a scheduled test of a system that will allow President Trump and future presidents to send alert messages to the phones of all Americans.
J.B. Nicholas, Kristine Rakowsky, and Liana Nikitovich filed a lawsuit last week to a U.S. District Court in Manhattan, which argues that the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, violates free speech rights and is an unconstitutional seizure of electronic devices, Politico reports.
A test of the system is scheduled to take place Wednesday. The first test was originally planned for Sept. 20, but it was delayed due to Hurricane Florence, which made landfall over the Carolinas in the middle of the moth.
The plaintiffs are worried that the system will turn into "government loudspeakers," which would allow presidents to send propaganda, according to the suit.
Former President Barack Obama signed a law in 2016 that says that the emergency alert system "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."
The plaintiffs say this law is "unconstitutionally vague."
"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," the complaint claims.
The complainants also accuse Trump in their suit of putting forth "weaponized disinformation" on Twitter, and they “don’t wish to receive text messages, or messages of any kind, on any topic or subject, from Defendant Trump."
Users have the ability to opt out of most alert messages sent through this system, such as Amber Alerts, but receiving presidential alerts will be mandatory.
The lawsuit is assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Katherine Failla, an Obama appointee, but the judge has not scheduled a hearing on the motion to stop the test before Wednesday.