A federal judge in NY says President Donald Trump violates the First Amendment by blocking critics on Twitter for political speech.
"The viewpoint-based exclusion of the individual plaintiffs from that designated public forum is proscribed by the First Amendment and can not be justified by the President's personal First Amendment interests", the judge said.
Buchwald said "we must assume" Trump and the White House's social media director, Daniel Scavino, who helps run the account, "will remedy the blocking we have held to be unconstitutional", and suggested the pair mute the president's critics instead. For a public forum to exist, the government has to own or control it, he said, but in this case, Twitter also controls Trump's account.
In the lawsuit, the seven individual plaintiffs, which included a University of Maryland professor, a Texas police officer and a NY comic, said they were blocked from the @realDonaldTrump account after posting tweets critical of his policies. Users can still reply to tweets after they've been muted, even if those replies are never seen, the ruling pointed out.
The decision is a remarkable coda to one of the more peculiar debates of Trump's presidency, and a victory for the First Amendment advocates who brought the lawsuit past year. The Trump administration has not decided yet whether Trump will unblock his critics on Twitter as directed by Buchwald or whether it will appeal the ruling, the New York Times reported.
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Jaffer added 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".
Noah Feldman, a Harvard law professor, said he thinks the case was wrongly decided and expects it to be reversed.
But through his Twitter bio and the way in which he frequently uses the medium to comment on public policy, Trump portrays his account as presidential "and, more importantly, uses the account to take actions that can be taken only by the President as President", Buchwald wrote.
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.
The court, while not going so far as to enter an order against the president and social media director Dan Scavino specifically, ruled more generally that public officials violated users' rights when blocking them on the platform.
Twitter has always been dogged by questions about how far its users' right to speech may extend.