Court rules President Trump can't block Twitter users

This is the Trump iPhone but not Trump's iPhone

President Trump can not block people from his Twitter account, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying the account became a public forum once he started using it for government business and is now protected by the First Amendment.

"This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, "block" a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the president of the United States", she wrote.

The seven plaintiffs believed "that his or her personal First Amendment rights have been and will continue to be encumbered, and the ability to communicate has been and will be limited because of each individual plaintiff's personal ownership of a Twitter account that was blocked" by Trump, Buchwald wrote.

Buchwald stopped short of accepting the request for an injunction against Trump and his social media aide, Dan Scavino, who was also named in the complaint, saying she expected the White House to abide by her "declaratory" ruling.

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

Serving senators across the major political parties have also been accused of frequently using the block button against critics.

The Justice Department and Twitter are yet to comment on the ruling.

Kerri Kupec, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, said in an email: "We respectfully disagree with the court's decision and are considering our next steps".

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The Department of Justice argued a year ago that users who are not logged into their Twitter accounts can still see the president's tweets online because they are public.

A uniquely 21st-century constitutional question received a satisfying answer today from a federal judge: President Trump can not block people on Twitter, as it constitutes a violation of their First Amendment rights. The New York judge, appointed in 1999, offered a solution that Trump simply "mute" certain accounts.

Twitter users can block people, which prevents them from seeing the user's feed while logged in.

"This is a groundbreaking decision", said Clay Calvert, a First Amendment expert who teaches at University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The court held that the official's Facebook page constituted a public forum and she had therefore violated the First Amendment when she blocked a critical constituent from commenting on it. As Twitter favors verified users on the platform, while often shadowbanning conservative accounts, liberal and left-leaning responses to the President often appear at the top of his replies. These are both true, Judge Buchwald found, but that doesn't mean blocking is okay.

Mr Trump's "exclusion" of the people he blocked on Twitter amounts to a breach of their rights to free speech, the Politico reported.

The ruling, which was instituted by Columbia University in 2017, comes as debates are widening about how to bridge the gap between public officials' rights to privacy and citizens' rights to free speech and demand for accountability.

Plaintiff Philip Cohen, a sociology professor, said he was "delighted" with the judge's ruling, adding "this increases my faith in the system a little".

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