President Trump Can't Block People on Twitter, Federal Judge Rules

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U.S. 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.

A U.S. federal court today ruled that President Donald Trump can not block his followers on Twitter as this violated the First Amendment.

A USA judge in NY on Wednesday ruled that President Donald Trump may not legally block Twitter users from his account on the social media platform based on their political views.

In March, Buchwald recommended Trump mute people he disagrees with rather than block them from viewing or reacting to his tweets.

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"We're pleased with the court's decision, which reflects a careful application of core First Amendment principles to government censorship on a new communications platform", said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which had filed the lawsuit on behalf of the group.

Now a federal judge says Trump has to face the heat, ruling that the president and his staff blocking anyone on Twitter is unconstitutional because the platform amounts to a "public forum". The seven users had each tweeted a message critical of the president before they were blocked.

The Justice Department said in an emailed statement that it would fight the ruling.

Importantly, the ruling identifies only parts of Trump's account as a public forum subject to First Amendment protections, not the entire account nor the rest of Twitter.

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UPDATE: I added some material to item 1 to make clear that this is about Twitters users' right to use the reply function to communicate to fellow members of the public, and not about any right (which the court specifically rejects) to have their replies be readable by the President. At the time, a Justice Department attorney agreed that muting would enable Trump to avoid a tweet he doesn't want to read.

The government had argued that blocked individuals could still access the president's tweets.

Buchwald boiled down the case to two simple questions: Can a public official block someone from seeing her or his Twitter feed given First Amendment protections of free speech? According to their lawsuit, because Mr Trump frequently turns to Twitter to make policy statements, his account qualifies as a public forum from which the government can not exclude people on the basis of their views.

She noted that another defendant, Daniel Scavino - the White House's social media director and an assistant to the president - can unblock those followers without the president needing to do it himself.

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"We certainly hope that other public officials will take note of the ruling and will operate their social media accounts consistent with the First Amendment restrictions on their ability to silence critics", DeCell said.