Judge: President Can't Block Critics on Twitter

These Twitter users are participating in a constitutionally protected public forum a federal judge has ruled

On Wednesday, a federal judge in NY ruled Trump violates the First Amendment by blocking critics on Twitter for political speech.

It took more than 280 characters, but a federal judge in Manhattan ruled Wednesday that President Trump and his aides can not block critics from seeing his Twitter account simply because they had posted caustic replies to his tweets in the past.

The question was an aspect of a suit brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute, which alleged that the official presidential Twitter feed amounts to a public forum, and that the government barring individuals from participating in it amounted to limiting their right to free speech.

U.S. district judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled on Wednesday that Trump, who has blocked several Twitter users who have been critical of him in the past, is violating the U.S. Constituion.

The U.S. Department of Justice had argued that the president and other public officials should be allowed to block people they see as irritants online in order to protect themselves.

In a statement after the ruling, DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said, "We respectfully disagree with the court's decision and are considering our next steps".

The court ruled that the people have a right to participate in a "public forum", which applies to social media.

Katie Fallow, a staff attorney at Knight who represented the plaintiffs, said the ruling "should guide all of the public officials who are communicating with their constituents through social media".

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"We must assume that the President and Scavino will remedy the blocking we have held to be unconstitutional", she wrote.

Neither the White House nor Twitter (Twitter was not named in the lawsuit) has commented on the case, as of this writing. Instead, merely declaring that the president has violated the rules of the Constitution should be more than enough to compel his team to take the appropriate action.

"No more is needed to violate the Constitution", Naomi Reice Buchwald, a US district judge in the Southern District of NY, wrote in her opinion.

But if he is using his Twitter account for official business, that's "government speech" and can not be doled out to select people, said First Amendment lawyer Wayne Giampietro.

Presumably some aspect of Buchwald's decision not to mandate that the users be unblocked was based on the understanding that the issue was not of the highest magnitude and that it would just be done. The court decided that the president's own First Amendment rights did not override the plaintiffs.

"The president's practice of blocking critics on Twitter is pernicious and unconstitutional, and we hope this ruling will bring it to an end", he said.

The claimants say the president violated freedom of speech by blocking them followers from his account for posting messages he disliked. "If all goes well, Hollywood will immortalize him as an evildoer who got his comeuppance".

Now the Knight Institute is representing a man in a similar case in Loudoun County, Virginia, where he was denied access to a Facebook page by a local county official. Like so many bullies, Trump has exceedingly thin skin and has a habit of blocking people who mock or disagree with him.

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