Tuesday, 16 October, 2018

Trump can't block users from his Twitter feed, federal judge rules

Trump-Twitter-Lawsuit Duke Med alumnus wins lawsuit against Trump for blocking him on Twitter
Carol Daniels | 25 May, 2018, 11:26

It is illegal for President Donald Trump to block people, especially Americans, from his personal Twitter account, a United States federal judge ruled on Wednesday.

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that President Trump can not block people from his Twitter account in response to their political views because it violates their right to free speech.

The Knight First Amendment Institute and the individual Twitter users claimed that by blocking users for their views, Mr Trump was shutting them out of discussion in a public forum, violating the First Amendment. "The answer to both questions is no".

"The court made clear that there was a First Amendment violation taking place", said Eric Goldman, professor and co-director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law.

The case was brought by The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University on behalf of seven Twitter users who had been blocked by Trump for criticising him or mocking him online.

"Because a Twitter user lacks control over the comment thread beyond the control exercised over first-order replies through blocking, the comment threads - as distinguished from the content of tweets sent by @realDonaldTrump, the @realDonaldTrump timeline, and the interactive space associated with each tweet - do not meet the threshold criterion for being a forum", the judge argues.

Trump is free to use his Twitter account in whatever ridiculous and absurd way he chooses, no matter how badly it backfires on him or how many times courts use his tweets against him.

The Justice Department said in an emailed statement that it would fight the ruling.

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The judge noted that another defendant, Daniel Scavino - the White House's social media director and an assistant to the president - can unblock those followers without the president needing to do it himself.

She ruled in favor of a handful of Twitter users Mr. Trump blocked after they posted antagonistic or obnoxious replies to his @realDonaldTrump account.

If Twitter is a public forum where users have First Amendment rights, that could make Twitter bans unconstitutional as well.

Kerri Kupec, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, said in an email: "We respectfully disagree with the court's decision and are considering our next steps".

The lawsuit against Mr Trump and other White House officials stems from his decision to bar several online critics. "If all goes well, Hollywood will immortalize him as an evildoer who got his comeuppance". The court decided that the president's own First Amendment rights did not override the plaintiffs.

NY reports the Republican politician has blocked the likes of: law student Luke Waltham and lawyers Sylvia Onyejekwe and Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza.

All Pres. Trump's many tweets come from his trusty iPhone, and he's not shy about blocking people who use this social network platform to respond to his comments. In last year's ruling about Facebook blocking, the judge held that public officials could do a certain amount of content moderation, provided that it was done in a content-neutral manner.

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