Few people, let alone presidents, use Twitter quite like Donald Trump. And now that he is president, Trump’s Twitter use has a way of ruffling a few (ahem) feathers. His account can also be a lightning rod for some unsavory or unwelcome tweets. While the rest of us on Twitter would just block other users whose tweets become annoying, argumentative, or even abusive, President Trump no longer has that luxury.
A federal judge has ruled that blocking Twitter users from seeing Trump’s@realDonaldTrump account violates the First Amendment. Here’s the judge’s ruling:
Tweets and Government Control
Writing for the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald wrote that both Trump and the White House social media director “exert governmental control over certain aspects of the @realDonaldTrump account,” and thus the blocked plaintiffs in the case have a constitutionally protected interest in engaging with the account. (Indeed, Trump’s own Department of Justice asserted his tweets are official presidential statements back in November of last year.)
By blocking their access to his account (blocked users can’t see or respond to a person’s tweets), the plaintiffs argued, the president was excluding them from a public forum based solely on their viewpoint, which is illegal under the First Amendment. And Judge Buchwald agreed. “The viewpoint-based exclusion of the individual plaintiffs from that designated public forum is proscribed by the First Amendment,” she wrote, “and cannot be justified by the president’s personal First Amendment interests.”
No Government Official Is Above the Law
Judge Buchwald was definitive in her assertion of authority to order Trump and his social media team to unblock Twitter users and refrain from blocking in the future:
“It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is” … and we have held that the President’s blocking of the individual plaintiffs is unconstitutional under the First Amendment. Because no government official is above the law and because all government officials are presumed to follow the law once the judiciary has said what the law is, we must assume that the President … will remedy the blocking we have held to be unconstitutional.