Donald Trump can not block critical Twitter users, court rules

Donald Trump

Judge rules Trump can't block people from Twitter account

President Trump can not block people from his Twitter account, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying the account became a public forum once he started using it for government business and is now protected by the First Amendment.

US District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan ruled that comments on the president's account, and those of other government officials, were public forums, and that blocking Twitter users for their views violated their right to free speech under the First Amendment of Constitution.

However, the court ruled that the president is a public figure who has used his personal twitter account to make political announcements and that his feed is, indeed, a "public forum" and thus protected by the first amendment.

Judge Buchwald said that the answer to both the questions was no.

Jameel Jaffer, the Knight Institute's executive director, welcomed the ruling, saying it "reflects a careful application of core First Amendment principles to government censorship on a new communications platform".

Buchwald said Trump could "mute" users, meaning he would not see their tweets while they could still respond to his, without violating their free speech rights.

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Trump is free to use his Twitter account in whatever ridiculous and absurd way he chooses, no matter how badly it backfires on him or how many times courts use his tweets against him.

The US Department of Justice, however, disagreed with the court ruling.

Twitter is a social media platform with more than 300 million active users worldwide, including some 70 million in the United States.

Considering Trump's position as a public official, a federal judge on Thursday ruled that he can not legally block his followers on Twitter based on their political views.

The Trump case is a little bit different because Twitter doesn't give anyone the ability to post comments directly on Trump's Twitter page.

The U.S. Department of Justice represented the president in the case. Mr. Trump created his Twitter account in 2009, well before he was involved in politics, much less in the White House. A city government can't say that only Republicans, Christians, or vegetarians are allowed to hold rallies in the town square, and it can't blacklist activists with a history of criticizing the mayor.

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She also rejected the suggestion that since Twitter is a private company it is beyond the reach of First Amendment forum rules.

In what seems to us like the weakest part of the decision, Buchwald concludes that the "interactive space" around Trump's tweets qualifies under this standard. "But the people's First Amendment rights to see these messages and respond to them must be respected".

The case is Knight First Amendment Institute v. Trump, 17-cv-5205, U.S. District Court, Southern District of NY.

Just a few weeks prior, Trump had sent the infamous "covfefe" tweet, which he deleted six hours after posting.

The fact that Trump chose to block users instead suggests that his goal was to prevent them from communicating with others.

The Knight Institute hopes that the ruling against Trump will set a precedent for other public officials across the country.

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