Federal appeals court rules Donald Trump can’t block people on Twitter
WASHINGTON – Tuesday, a federal appeals court ruled that President Donald Trump can’t block people on Twitter, citing “unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.”
The judges in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in the case, Knight First Amendment Institute v. Trump, upholding a district court judge’s ruling.
Judge Barrington Parker, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote in affirmation of the district court’s ruling.
“Because we agree that in blocking the Individual Plaintiffs the President engaged in prohibited viewpoint discrimination, we affirm,” Parker wrote.
More: Donald Trump cannot block critical Twitter users, court rules
Parker explained that the court did not take a stance on banning users from a private account or whether the First Amendment governed speech on social media platforms.
“We do conclude, however, that the First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise‐open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees,” Parker wrote.
“The public presentation of the Account and the webpage associated with it bear all the trappings of an official, state‐run account,” Parker explained, meaning that the First Amendment governed the conduct of the account.
The Trump administration’s lawyers had argued Trump’s tweets were made in his personal capacity, rather than from an official government account, so blocking other Twitter users would be permissible – an argument the court rejected.
Trump’s Twitter account has about 61.8 million followers. Parker noted that Trump had used Twitter to announce the firing of officials like White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, and that the National Archives had declared Trump’s tweets to be “official records.”
The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University had sued the president on behalf of seven Twitter users who had been blocked by Trump after tweeting critical messages.
Contributing: John Fritze
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