Federal Judge Rules Trump Can't Block Twitter Followers

Posted: May 23, 2018 2:25 PM
Federal Judge Rules Trump Can't Block Twitter Followers

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan ruled Wednesday that President Trump can’t block users from his Twitter feed, claiming it infringes on their First Amendment rights.

The lawsuit was brought by The Knight First Amendment Institute of Columbia University on behalf of seven Twitter users who have been blocked from viewing President Trump’s tweets from his @realDonaldTrump account when logged into their accounts.

"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," Buchwald wrote in her ruling. "The answer to both questions is no."

She held that the ability to interact with President Trump’s Twitter account is part of a designated public forum.

“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,” she wrote, “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. “

She added that “while we must recognize, and are sensitive to, the president’s personal First Amendment rights, he cannot exercise those rights in a way that infringes the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticized him.”

The judge did not order Trump to unblock the users in the lawsuit (Rebecca Buckwalter, Philip Cohen, Holly Figueroa, Eugene Gu, Brandon Neely, Joseph Papp, and Nicholas Pappas). She wrote that her ruling was sufficient to begin a change in such Twitter behavior from public officials.