Trump Can't Block Critics From His Twitter Account, Judge Says


The judge said she hoped Mr Trump will unblock those he had blocked on Twitter in the wake of her rule, although it was not immediately clear whether the president would take the suggestion.

The judge explained: "This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, "block" a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the President of the United States".

The Knight First Amendment Institute director, Jameel Jaffer, suggested that further legal action would be taken if the president continued to block people on Twitter.

"We respectfully disagree with the court's decision and are considering our next steps", Kerri Kupec, Justice Department spokesperson said.

On Wednesday, one of the plaintiffs, Dr. Eugene Gu, a Duke University medical school alumnus and contributing writer for The Hill, highlighted the tweet that he said prompted Trump to block him.

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.

Twitter Inc. was not involved to the lawsuit and declined to comment.

And that means no more blocking critics on Twitter for political speech. "Trump's personal Twitter account has become a public forum and this court concluded that he can not block those who disagree with him and only allow those who agree with him".

Judge Buchwald agreed with arguments put forth by the plaintiffs that Trump's Twitter feed met the standards put forth by the Supreme Court as a "public forum", and access to it could therefore not be abridged on the basis of an individual's opinion. According to their profiles, the Twitter users who sued the president for blocking them - and won - include an outspoken war veteran, activist songwriter, surgeon, comedian, sociologist, cyclist anti-doping advocate and a liberal blogger.

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.

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.

As such, if he blocks people and thereby prevents them from seeing his messages, he is breaking the First Amendment. She also noted that Trump uses his @realDonaldTrump account for official business.

The judge issued what is known as declaratory relief, which states the point of law, as opposed to an injunction that would seek to bar the president from blocking his critics.

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

The judge acknowledged that even though the president has certain free speech rights, he can not violate the rights of other Twitter users.

The Knight Institute said it was lodging an appeal in the case of a Virginia resident blocked on Facebook by a local public official. Scavino and Trump remain as defendants on the case.