US President Trump can't block his critics on Twitter, judge rules


New York Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that it's unconstitutional for the head of state to block Twitter users from his account simply because he doesn't agree with them, especially because Trump is a public figure who uses his personal account for political purposes.

She says that because Twitter essentially acts as a "public forum" (the 21st-century equivalent of a town hall meeting), by blocking Twitter users, Trump is shutting down their free speech.

Judge Buchwald said that the answer to both the questions was no.

"We're pleased with the court's decision, which reflects a careful application of core First Amendment principles to government censorship on a new communications platform", said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which had filed the lawsuit on behalf of the group.

Like all Twitter users, Trump has been able to "block" users he doesn't like, effectively stopping them from responding to his tweets. With over 50 million followers, Trump is the world's most followed world leader. 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.

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 US president), that still has implications for Twitter's enforcement policy.

The judge ordered Trump to unblock his account. But, as President, Trump frequently uses it to make official announcements.

The White House directed queries to the Department of Justice, where a spokeswoman said in a statement, "We respectfully disagree with the court's decision and are considering our next steps".

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The Trump case is a little bit different because Twitter doesn't give anyone the ability to post comments directly on Trump's Twitter page. "If all goes well, Hollywood will immortalize him as an evildoer who got his comeuppance".

Buchwald also said she recognized the impact on the individuals by Trump's action was not "of the highest magnitude".

It argued that the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account is a "public forum" under the First Amendment. As such, if he blocks people and thereby prevents them from seeing his messages, he is breaking the First Amendment.

NY reports the Republican politician has blocked the likes of: law student Luke Waltham and lawyers Sylvia Onyejekwe and Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza.

What about the fact that you can still see all of Trump's tweets and responses if you simply log out of your account?

All Pres. Trump's many tweets come from his trusty iPhone, and he's not shy about blocking people who use this social network platform to respond to his comments.

When Gu was blocked, he said that he didn't feel pride like some Twitter users do when they are blocked. In last year's ruling about Facebook blocking, the judge held that public officials could do a certain amount of content moderation, provided that it was done in a content-neutral manner.