Why Donald Trump can’t block his Twitter followers

Federal judge rules that everyone has right to reply to @realDonaldTrump under First Amendment

Donald Trump is reportedly considering an additional $100bn in tariffs on China
Trump has more than 52 million followers on Twitter
(Image credit: 2018 Getty Images)

President Donald Trump’s habit of blocking dissenting voices on Twitter is in violation of US citizens’ First Amendment rights, a US federal court has ruled.

A lawsuit was brought against the president by seven Twitter users including a Texas police officer, a New York comedy writer and a Nashville surgeon, The New York Times reports. They argued that Trump’s Twitter feed, which has more than 52 million followers, is an official government account and that as such, preventing users from following it was unconstitutional.

In her ruling on Wednesday, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald stated that “no government official - including the president - is above the law, and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as has been declared”.

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She added: “We hold that portions of the @realDonaldTrump account - the ‘interactive space’ where Twitter users may directly engage with the content of the president’s tweets - are properly analysed under the ‘public forum’ doctrines set forth by the Supreme Court, that such space is a designated public forum, and that the blocking of the plaintiffs based on their political speech constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment.”

However, Buchwald did not demand Trump unblock any users that are currently prohibited from accessing his profile, saying that her “declaratory judgment should be sufficient”.

The Knight Institute, a Columbia University-based organisation that defends free speech, filed the suit on behalf of the seven Twitter users, who were all blocked by Trump.

Applauding the verdict, Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the institute, said: “We’re pleased with the court’s decision, which reflects a careful application of core First Amendment principles to government censorship on a new communications platform. The president’s practice of blocking critics on Twitter is pernicious and unconstitutional, and we hope this ruling will bring it to an end.”

Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza, a legal analyst from Washington DC and one of the plaintiffs in the case, tweeted on Wednesday: “I sued the President, and I won.”

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