Judge finds Trump can't block his critics on Twitter


In ruling against Trump, the court pointed to past White House assurances that the president's Twitter account is an official political channel.

The Knight First Amendment Institute director, Jameel Jaffer, suggested that further legal action would be taken if the president continued to block people on Twitter.

The Department of Justice said in a statement that it "respectfully" disagrees with the ruling and is considering how to proceed.

"Given that no government office is above the law, we assume that the president and [Daniel] Scavino will remedy the blockade that we have considered unconstitutional", which the plaintiffs have to request to Trump, says Buchwald.

Justice Department attorneys argued that the account was personal and therefore immune to those claims.

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

The lawsuit contended that because Trump uses Twitter for a variety of policy announcements, the account is "a designated public forum" that can not exclude people due to their political views.

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

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Kentucky governor Matt Bevin won an initial court round this March in a lawsuit which alleges he violated free-speech rights by blocking people from his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

She was blocked previous year after tweeting to Mr. Trump: "To be fair you didn't win the WH: Russia won it for you".

While we must recognize, and are sensitive to, the President's personal First Amendment rights, he can not exercise those rights in a way that infringes the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticized him.

Cohen said Trump had not yet unblocked him as of late Wednesday afternoon. In the lawsuit, they said they were blocked by the @realDonaldTrump account soon after they tweeted something critical at or about the president.

The controversy stems from Trump's embrace of the platform as his soapbox to attack his critics, laud his supporters and announce administration policies.

By blocking users, Trump prevented them from speaking to others on the reply thread, not just to him, the judge said.

"Since then, quite a few other folks including many other of my fellow veterans, have also lifted up the fact that they've been blocked by the president of the United States on Twitter as well", Fischer said, noting that he found the move troubling. "A lot of times with First Amendment cases, the people who were affected by the decision come up with some kind of workaround so they're still in compliance with the First Amendment [while] accomplishing their goals".

The judge acknowledged that even though the president has certain free speech rights, he can not violate the rights of other Twitter users. Because Mr. Trump and Mr. Scavino also retain control over the account, she said, it's a government space as well. "A declaratory judgment should be sufficient, as no government official - including the President - is above the law", the ruling states, "and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as it has been declared".