A federal judge in Manhattan ruled on Wednesday that Twitter is a “public forum” and therefore President Trump cannot block users from his @realDonaldTrump account.
Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of the U.S. District court of the Southern District of New York wrote in a bombshell ruling that blocking users violates their First Amendment rights.
The judge ruled that blocking people who reply to the President’s tweets with differing opinions constitutes viewpoint discrimination and is in violation of the First Amendment.
“We reject the defendants’ contentions that the First Amendment does not apply in this case and that the President’s personal First Amendment interests supersede those of plaintiffs,” the judge wrote in a 75-page decision.
The judge did not order the President to unblock users, but the case could be a landmark in how public officials use Twitter, and how lawsuits against the tech giant for First Amendment and anti-trust violations move forward.
“No government official — including the President — is above the law, and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as has been declared,” she said.
Buchwald was appointed by former President Bill Clinton. The lawsuit was brought about by the Knight Foundation on behalf of seven people who were blocked from the @realDonaldTrump account, including a Texas cop and a New York comedian.
The Hill reports, Buchwald explained that blocking someone on Twitter goes further than just muting them, and government officials can simply ignore replies rather than blocking those users.
“Muting preserves the muted account’s ability to reply to a tweet sent by the muting account, blocking precludes the blocked user from ‘seeing or replying to the blocking user’s tweets’ entirely,” she said.
@realDonaldTrump is the President’s personal Twitter account whereas @POTUS is the official account of the sitting president.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit claimed they have been made to suffer “irreparable injury to their First Amendment rights” when Trump blocked them from expressing their views to him via Twitter.
Although the First Amendment protects the right to speak, not to be heard, others might have tangible grievances where technology and speech intersect. For reference, see: Roger Stone, Milo Yiannopoulos, Tommy Robinson, et al.
feature image via theduran.com