Judge says Trump can’t block people on Twitter anymore

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Trump's all-powerful Twitter reign is over.
Image: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pop those bottles, First Amendment-lovers. Plaintiffs in a freedom of speech lawsuit just scored a major victory against President Trump in court.

A New York District Court judge has ruled that President Donald Trump may not block people on Twitter for criticizing or disagreeing with him. 

The ruling is the result of a lawsuit, filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, on behalf of seven plaintiffs that Trump blocked on Twitter.

“We’re pleased with the court’s decision, which reflects a careful application of core First Amendment principles to government censorship on a new communications platform,” the Knight Institute’s executive director, Jameel Jaffer, said in a statement. “The president’s practice of blocking critics on Twitter is pernicious and unconstitutional, and we hope this ruling will bring it to an end.”

The suit alleged that when @RealDonaldTrump blocked the plaintiffs in the case after they criticized  Trump on Twitter, it constituted “viewpoint discrimination,” which is a violation of their First Amendment rights to free speech in a public forum. 

United States District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald first of all decided that yes, Twitter does constitute a public forum. Since it is a public forum, individuals’ freedom of speech can’t be limited there on the basis of political viewpoint.

Crucially, she found that President Trump’s stature as the, um, President, did not qualify for any sort of exemption. Wrote Reice Buchwald:

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. The answer to both questions is no.

The ruling is significant because it shows that if a public official uses Twitter in an official capacity, that can qualify it as a public forum — where freedom of speech is protected.  Or, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation explained on Twitter in December 2017, “whether through an official or personal account, if a platform is being used to conduct the government’s business, the account is subject to the First Amendment.” This lawsuit puts that legal precedent on the books.

“Technology has changed how we communicate,” Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president, told Mashable via email. “This is one of the first cases to interpret how the First Amendment will be applied to Internet. Many, many more will follow.”

The case also demonstrates the principle that all people are equally beholden to the rule of law — even the President.

“A declaratory judgment should be sufficient, as no government official — including the President — is above the law, and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as has been declared,” wrote Justice Reice Buchwald in her decision. 

Hmm, it seems like the Justice hasn’t met our president yet.

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/05/23/trump-legally-cant-block-people-on-twitter/

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