Judge orders Trump not to block Twitter followers in groundbreaking ruling

Henrietta Brewer
May 25, 2018

While Buchwald stopped short of ordering Trump and White House aides to unblock users that Trump and his team have prevented from seeing or responding to his tweets, experts said the ruling makes clear that public officials in any office are running afoul of the Constitution if they continue to block Twitter users whose views they oppose.

A United States district court has ruled that President Donald Trump can not block Twitter users from his account due to their political views.

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that President Trump's practice of blocking critical voices on Twitter violates the First Amendment. "The answer to both questions is no", she concluded.

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

In the lawsuit, the seven individual plaintiffs, including 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. The plaintiffs argued that Trump's twitter feed amounted to a virtual town hall, and that blocking users from seeing his tweets violated their First Amendment rights. Trump has more than 50 million followers on his Twitter page. But blocking someone also works in the other direction: if Trump blocks another user, that user can't see Trump's tweets and (as a consequence) can't reply to them.

In the past week, he has repeatedly claimed in multiple tweets that the Justice Department put a "spy" inside his presidential campaign to frame him for "crimes he didn't commit" amid mounting questions over his campaign's possible collusion with Russian Federation.

Twitter Inc, which is not a party to the lawsuit, declined to comment on the ruling. The group filed the challenge to Trump's Twitter blocking habits previous year on behalf of seven individuals Trump blocked.

"We receive reports about how governmental officials manipulate social media comments to exclude opposing views to create the impression that hotly contested policies are not contested at all", EFF said on Twitter after the case was filed. "If that's the case, the government doesn't get to pick and choose who is allowed in". "A lot of times with First Amendment cases, the people who were affected by the decision come up with some kind of workaround so they're still in compliance with the First Amendment [while] accomplishing their goals".

The case is Knight First Amendment Institute v. Trump, 17-cv-5205, U.S. District Court, Southern District of NY.

However, if you click on a Donald Trump tweet, you'll see a long list of replies to that tweet listed underneath.

When Gu was blocked, he said that he didn't feel pride like some Twitter users do when they are blocked.

It's not clear, as of this writing, how many Twitter users Trump has blocked - it could be a few dozen, it could be thousands.

"The President, like other public officials, routinely engages in conduct that is not state action, whether that might be giving a toast at a wedding or giving a speech at a fundraiser", the Justice Department wrote in a brief, according to The Washington Post.

Other reports by iNewsToday