In a ruling yesterday, Federal District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald declared that President Trump’s habit of blocking users who disagree with him politically on Twitter is unconstitutional.
We hold that portions of the @realDonaldTrump account — the “interactive space” where Twitter users may directly engage with the content of the President’s tweets — are properly analyzed under the “public forum” doctrines set forth by the Supreme Court, that such space is a designated public forum, and that the blocking of the plaintiffs based on their political speech constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment.
As a public forum, the first amendment rights of the plaintiffs out weigh the President’s first amendment rights. The lawsuit was brought by seven plaintiffs who were blocked and therefor unable to directly respond to the President’s posts or engage in discussion between other Twitter users as a part of those posts. In light of separation-of-powers issues, the Judge did not issue an injunction requiring the President and his social media director Dan Scavino to reinstate the users, but rather issued the ruling with the expectation that they will comply. Nevertheless, if the President and Mr. Scavino do not unblock the users, plaintiff’s counsel has indicated the next step will be to seek an injunction.
The ruling could have a much broader impact on public officials who engage the public in an official capacity via social media accounts. If users are censored based on their political views, these officials run the risks of getting sued.
Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University et al v. Trump et al – Full Docket & Case Filings
Trump’s Blocking of Twitter Users Is Unconstitutional, Judge Says, New York Times, May 23, 2018.
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