Donald Trump barred from blocking Twitter users, judge rules

The US President was told that blocking access to his Twitter account would be a violation of the right to free speech, district judge Naomi Reice said.

Mr Trump’s @RealDonaldTrump platform has become an integral and controversial part of his presidency that he uses to announce policy and verbally attack critics.

It was rule that comments on the US leader’s account, and those of other government officials, were public forums, and that blocking Twitter users for their views violated their right to free speech under the First Amendment of Constitution.

Eugene Volokh, a University of California Los Angeles School of Law professor who specialises in First Amendment issues, said the decision’s effect would reach beyond Mr Trump.

“It would end up applying to a wide range of government officials throughout the country,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Justice, which represents Mr Trump in the case, said:  “We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision and are considering our next steps.”

Twitter Inc, which is not a party to the lawsuit, declined to comment on the ruling.

The ruling was in response to a First Amendment lawsuit filed against Mr Trump in July by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and several Twitter users.

The individual plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Philip Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland; Holly Figueroa, described in the complaint as a political organizer and songwriter in Washington state; and Brandon Neely, a Texas police officer.

Mr Cohen, who was blocked from Trump’s account last June after posting an image of the president with words “Corrupt Incompetent Authoritarian,” said he was “delighted” with Wednesday’s decision.

“This increases my faith in the system a little,” he said.

Novelists Stephen King and Anne Rice, comedian Rosie O’Donnell, model Chrissy Teigen, actress Marina Sirtis and the military veterans political action committee VoteVets.org are among the others who have said on Twitter that  Mr Trump blocked them.

The judge rejected the argument by Justice Department lawyers that Trump’s own First Amendment rights allowed him to block people with whom he did not wish to interact.

“While we must recognise, and are sensitive to, the president’s personal First Amendment rights, he cannot exercise those rights in a way that infringes the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticized him,” Buchwald said.

She said Mr Trump could “mute” users, meaning he would not see their tweets while they could still respond to his, without violating their free speech rights.

The judge rejected the argument by Justice Department lawyers that Trump’s own First Amendment rights allowed him to block people with whom he did not wish to interact.

“While we must recognise, and are sensitive to, the president’s personal First Amendment rights, he cannot exercise those rights in a way that infringes the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticized him,” Buchwald said.

She said Mr Trump could “mute” users, meaning he would not see their tweets while they could still respond to his, without violating their free speech rights.

*

Top