Trump can’t block critics on Twitter, says federal Judge

Hannah Rogers
May 25, 2018

It is unconstitutional for public officials, including the president, to block Twitter followers who criticize them, a court ruled today in a legal dispute over President Trump's account.

U.S. President Donald Trump may not "block" Twitter users and those commenting on his tweets, a U.S. Federal Judge has ruled. It argued that Trump's account constituted a public forum under the First Amendment, and that the White House was violating the plaintiffs' First Amendment right to petition their government for redress of grievances.

In March, Buchwald recommended Trump mute people he disagrees with rather than block them from viewing or reacting to his tweets. And in his statement, Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec said that we politely object with the court's judgment and are contemplating our next steps.

In the lawsuit, the seven individual plaintiffs, which included a University of Maryland professor, a Texas police officer and a NY comic, said they were blocked from the @realDonaldTrump account after posting tweets critical of his policies.

"No government official - including the President - is above the law", wrote Buchwald for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of NY.

Trump was a prolific tweeter from his @RealDonaldTrump account even before being elected in 2016 and has since made it an integral and controversial part of his presidency.

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"The president's practice of blocking critics on Twitter is pernicious and unconstitutional, and we hope this ruling will bring it to an end", he said.

Mr Trump has more than 52.2 million Twitter followers and has tweeted more than 37,600 times since 2009.

"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 the Knight Institute.

But through his Twitter bio and the way in which he frequently uses the medium to comment on public policy, Trump portrays his account as presidential "and, more importantly, uses the account to take actions that can be taken only by the President as President", Buchwald wrote.

Katie Fallow, a staff attorney at Knight who represented the plaintiffs, said the ruling "should guide all of the public officials who are communicating with their constituents through social media". "That is much less restrictive and burdensome on the plaintiffs' speech rights".

In addition to Trump, the lawsuit named White House social media director and assistant to the president Daniel Scavino.

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