Published: Fri, May 25, 2018
World | By Camille Rivera

Trump blocking critics on Twitter violates Constitution, judge says

Trump blocking critics on Twitter violates Constitution, judge says

President Donald Trump's blocking of people on Twitter because they criticise him violates the First Amendment, a federal judge in NY ruled today.

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of the Southern District of NY agreed with the Knight Institute that Trump's Twitter account is a public forum, which means the First Amendment prevents public officials from restricting access based on people's viewpoints.

In her ruling, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald wrote that "no government official - including the President - is above the law, and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as has been declared".

The judge's ruling rejected a series of contentions made on behalf of the president, including that the plaintiffs lacked standing; that the president deserved different standing because of his high station; and that Twitter was a platform where critics get to engage in protected public discourse - including criticism of the president. He has blocked many critics from his account, which prevents them from directly responding to his tweets.

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"I don't know if muting is really the solution, but if all they really care about, which they say, is that he just doesn't want to hear from us, then he would mute, but obviously he wants to suppress our speech", he said.

Importantly, the ruling identifies only parts of Trump's account as a public forum subject to First Amendment protections, not the entire account nor the rest of Twitter.

"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.

Trump has garnered over 52.2 million followers posting about everything from the National Football League to North Korea to his disdain for Robert Mueller probe into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

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In addition to Mr Trump, the lawsuit named the President's social media director, Dan Scavino, as a defendant.

"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. According to their lawsuit, because Mr Trump frequently turns to Twitter to make policy statements, his account qualifies as a public forum from which the government can not exclude people on the basis of their views.

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

Twitter has always been dogged by questions about how far its users' right to speech may extend.

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