U.S. President Donald Trump has been violating the Constitution as he blocked hundreds of people. They won’t be viewing his Twitter account’s feed because these blocked accounts criticized him. This ruling possibly has broader implications for how the First Amendment must be applied during the era of social media.
The First Amendment does not allow any public official to block the press for all aspects of political purposes. It will exclude anyone from when they express views that are contrary to what the official has said.
In her ruling, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald said that Trump is violating the U.S. Constitution by blocking users from accessing his Twitter feed. This is because the U.S. president is preventing his fellow Americans from seeing his tweets on his account @realDonaldTrump.
Judge Judges and Trumps Trump
The judge said in an opinion that the Twitter account of the U.S. president shows that it is an official account. She also said that President Trump and his staff described the tweets as official statements. It was also noted that the National Archives has concluded that the tweets of the President were official records. They are known as a government agency that is responsible for maintaining the records of the government.
According to Judge Buchwald, the social media platform Twitter is a designated platform for a public forum. This is the reason why Trump cannot exclude individual plaintiffs from seeing his tweets just because these plaintiffs disagree with him. The judge also rejected the argument that said that Trump had the right to block his Twitter followers. He has associational freedoms, an argument submitted by the Justice Department.
Judge Buchwald’s ruling was a response to the July lawsuit filed by Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. Besides, seven plaintiffs who Trump personally blocked on his Twitter account were among those who filed the said lawsuit.
Twitter’s White House Activity Trends
The said plaintiffs included a Texas police officer, a surgeon, and a journalist who once tweeted at Trump that the Russian won the presidential election for him.
According to one plaintiff, she knows that more or less 150 verified Twitter accounts have been blocked by the U.S. president. She also mentioned that there are at least hundreds more of unverified accounts that have been blocked by Trump himself.
The blocked Twitter users were prevented from viewing, sharing, and responding to the tweets of the President. Assuming that they logged in to their own accounts. Notably, Trump is an avid user of Twitter, where he routinely creates news with his posts often several times per day.
The U.S. president has over 52.2 million followers on Twitter and has already tweeted more than 37,600 tweets ever since his account was created in March 2009.
White House Twitter Followers
Buchwald publicized her opinion, saying that considering the First Amendment, the case requires them to consider if a public official will be allowed to block a Twitter user from his account in response to the political views that the person expressed. She also mentioned that they are looking at whether the analysis of the case varies because the public official in question is the President of the United States himself. Answering her own questions, the judge noted that the answer to both is no.
The White House has yet to give its response to the judge’s ruling on the case. However, a spokesman from the Justice Department said that they respectfully disagree with the decision of the court. They are considering the next steps that they would take. Notably, the Justice Department was given 60 days to file an appeal against the ruling.
The White House gives no response
Jameel Jaffer, the executive director of the Knight Institute, noted in a prepared statement that they are pleased with the decision of the court. It reflects a careful application of the core principles of the First Amendment to govern censorship on new platforms for communication. He also added that Trump’s practice of blocking his critics from viewing his tweets is both unconstitutional and pernicious. Jaffer, speaking for all the individuals who filed the case, said that they are hoping that the ruling will end such a practice.
Katy Fallow, a senior attorney staff at the Knight Institute, said that the First Amendment restricts government officials from suppressing speech. That is based on viewpoint and that the court’s application of the said principle must be a guide for all public officials who are communicating with their constituents using social media.
A plaintiff in the suit, Holly Figueroa O’Reilly believes that Trump blocked her because she tweeted a GIF. This GIF where Pope Francis was giving the President a side glance where she captioned brutally. The caption was “This is pretty much how the whole world sees you.” O’Reilly also noted that Trump is arbitrarily blocking people because he does not like it when he is being criticized.
O’Reilly said that she is happy with the ruling. She then said that Trump should do is to unblock everyone rather than appealing the judge’s ruling. However, O’Reilly was skeptical that the President of the United States would do such. Trump is someone who will take revenge when he lost rather than someone who capitulate from his loses.
Moreover, O’Reilly said that she did not file a lawsuit against Trump for her to be unblocked from his Twitter account. The suit read what she called “stupid tweets” coming from the President. She wanted to read more tweets by the President and have her responses visible to him and to other people. The plaintiff said that she just wants to know everything about the tweets of the U.S. president.