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

25 May 2018

A USA district court has ruled that President Donald Trump can not block Twitter users from his account due to their political views.

A United States federal court today ruled that President Donald Trump can not block his followers on Twitter as this violated the First Amendment.

Judge Buchwald, in a 75-page opinion, said the blocking of Trump's critics violated the free speech rights of those users guaranteed in the US Constitution's First Amendment.

President Donald Trump can't block Twitter users critical of his policies from following him on the social network, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

In a statement after the ruling, DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said, "We respectfully disagree with the court's decision and are considering our next steps".

The key question facing the judge was whether Mr. Trump's account amounted to a forum like a public park or a town square - places the Supreme Court has held to be First Amendment spheres of interaction.

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Earlier in the trial, Judge Buchwald suggested the president, who was not in court, could simply mute the accounts he does not want to see.

On Wednesday the judge agreed with their argument that the social media platform qualifies as a "designated public forum" granted to all USA citizens.

In ruling, she said no government official - including the president - is above the law.

The judge rejected an argument that the president has his own First Amendment right to choose who to interact with because of the fact his Twitter account was used to deliver messages that are "governmental in nature".

President Trump is not allowed to block critics from following him on Twitter, a federal judge in NY ruled yesterday.

It was argued that as an elected official Trump's Twitter is a valid channel for official communication - a White House press office probably just choked on its skimmed latte - and should be openly accessible to anyone.

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Blocking the complainants from this public space "based on their political speech constitutes discrimination that violates the First Amendment", wrote the judge.

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

But if he is using his Twitter account for official business, that's "government speech" and can not be doled out to select people, said First Amendment lawyer Wayne Giampietro.

In a statement following the ruling, Katie Fallow, senior staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute, said, "The First Amendment prohibits government officials from suppressing speech on the basis of viewpoint".

The bigger impact here, however, is that this ruling applies to all public officials in the US. "If that's the case, the government doesn't get to pick and choose who is allowed in".

Trump might have had a better argument for blocking his critics on Twitter, but he's the one who made a decision to turn his personal account into an official arm of the presidency. Trump had argued that a court doesn't have the power to issue a direct order to a sitting president. The judge said the governor wasn't suppressing speech but "merely culling his Facebook and Twitter accounts to present a public image that he desires".

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