Trump can't block user on Twitter, federal judge rules

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US President Donald Trump may not "block" Twitter users from viewing his online profile due to their political beliefs, a judge in NY has ruled. "As long as they remain blocked, 'the Individual Plaintiffs can not view the President's tweets; directly reply to these tweets; or use the @realDonaldTrump webpage to view the comment threads associated with the President's tweets while they are logged in to their verified accounts, '" she wrote, quoting from a court document.

"The viewpoint-based exclusion of the individual plaintiffs from that designated public forum is proscribed by the First Amendment and can not be justified by the president's personal First Amendment interests", Buchwald wrote.

While we must recognize, and are sensitive to, the President's personal First Amendment rights, he can not exercise those rights in a way that infringes the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticized him.

But she stopped short of ordering Trump and his social media director, Dan Scavino, to unblock people. "The president's practice of blocking critics on Twitter is pernicious and unconstitutional, and we hope this ruling will bring it to an end".

O'Reilly told The Outline she believes the ruling will set a legal precedent to prevent government officials from blocking constituents on social media who disagree with them.

Attorneys for the Justice Department had argued that the only public Twitter forum for President Trump was the official @POTUS account, citing the fact the @realDonaldTrump handle, which he more frequently uses, was created years ago when he was a private citizen.

While neither Trump nor Scavino are allowed to block users, Buchwald did not order them to unblock users.

While the Department of Justice has said that it is contemplating its next move, it's safe to assume that the ruling will be appealed.

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? "Anyone with a Twitter account who has not been blocked may participate in the interactive space by replying or retweeting the president's tweets", she writes.

The lawsuit was filed after Trump blocked some individuals from @realDonaldTrump, a 9-year-old Twitter account with over 50 million followers, after each of them tweeted a message critical of Trump or his policies in reply to a tweet he had sent.

Even if it's argued that the ruling is narrow and only meant to apply to public figures (maybe even arguing that it applies only to the USA president), that still has implications for Twitter's enforcement policy. It will save me some time if I'm unblocked.

"The judge pointed to a number of ways in which the Twitter account has been used for governmental purposes, and that's really the question", said Michael McConnell, who teaches First Amendment law at Stanford Law School.

Could this impact Twitter users in Australia?

If Twitter is a public forum where users have First Amendment rights, that could make Twitter bans unconstitutional as well. At that time, Judge Buchwald urged both parties to find a resolution outside of court.

The government did not dispute that Mr. Trump blocked people because of those kinds of antagonistic tweets.



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