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US President Trump Cannot Legally Block Followers On Twitter, Rules US Judge

25 May 2018

Trump's tweeting keeps getting him into trouble in court, and on Wednesday it happened again, when U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that no, he can't block people on Twitter for criticizing him.

A United States judge in NY on Wednesday ruled that President Donald Trump may not legally block Twitter users from his account on the social media platform based on their political views. "The answer to both questions is no", she concluded.

Knight Institute v. Trump - was brought to Buchwald's bench by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University last July.

Trump is free to use his Twitter account in whatever ridiculous and absurd way he chooses, no matter how badly it backfires on him or how many times courts use his tweets against him.

These claimants can not view Trumps tweets, reply to them or see the comments thread underneath them.

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While the court has ruled the blocking is unconstitutional, it said the ability to mute a person was not - and so the safe space nurtured by the president and his social media team will remain mostly intact.

There was no immediate response to the ruling from the White House. The feature prevents selected accounts from appearing in a user's Twitter mentions - effectively blocking them from Trump's view.

This case is one of the first to tackle the thorny issues raised by the new technology, and Judge Buchwald's ruling applies to all public officials who use their accounts to disseminate information relevant to the public interest.

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

The distinction between muting and blocking showed the judge applied a subtle, but sophisticated, understanding of Twitter and social media, said Aaron Caplan, a professor at Loyola Law School of Los Angeles specializing in constitutional law. "Trump's personal Twitter account has become a public forum and this court concluded that he can not block those who disagree with him and only allow those who agree with him". "If that's the case, the government doesn't get to pick and choose who is allowed in". The group argued that failing to recognize Trump's Twitter feed as a public forum would "threaten critical First Amendment values".

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The judge said Trump couldn't suppress such responses.

"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. She said the First Amendment protects people even from trivial harm.

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

It is not clear how many people Mr. Trump has blocked, but online tallies list some of the names: author Stephen King, anti-Trump activist Holly Figueroa O'Reilly and Daily Kos editor Rebecca Pilar Buckwalter Poza, who was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The Knight Institute hopes that the ruling against Trump will set a precedent for other public officials across the country.

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US President Trump Cannot Legally Block Followers On Twitter, Rules US Judge