Law & the Courts

Appeals Court Rules Trump Cannot Block Twitter Followers

(@realDonaldTrump handout via Reuters)

A federal court ruled Tuesday that President Trump acted unconstitutionally when he blocked certain Twitter users from his official account, upholding a lower court’s ruling.

A three-judge panel of the Manhattan-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled unanimously that as a public official, the president does not have the right to utilize his account’s block button to prevent users from seeing his tweets, which have 61.8 million followers.

“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,” read the decision from Judge Barrington Parker.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University sued the Trump administration on behalf of the seven users who have been blocked by Trump, including a journalist who tweeted “Russia won” at Trump’s account.

Trump has made his Twitter account a feature of his presidential campaign and administration despite criticism from opponents and trepidation from his allies, and even from his wife, that his social-media presence may damage his public image.

The judge noted that Trump’s account, @realdonaldtrump, exhibits “all the trappings of an official, state‐run account” and is “one of the White House’s main vehicles for conducting official business.”

“The agency of government responsible for maintaining the government’s records [the National Archives], has concluded that the President’s tweets are official records,” the judge added.

The Justice Department previously called the lower court’s original decision “fundamentally misconceived.”

“The President’s practice of blocking critics on Twitter is pernicious and unconstitutional, and we hope this ruling will bring it to an end,” read a statement from Jameel Jaffer, the Knight Institute’s executive director.

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