Judge: Trump can’t block Twitter users over political beliefs

File photo: Donald J. Trump/Facebook

May 23 (UPI) — A federal judge in New York decided Wednesday that President Donald Trump can’t block people who disagree with him from his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account.

Naomi Reice Buchwald, a U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York, wrote in a 75-page decision that Trump — and other public officials — cannot block people from their Twitter accounts “in response to the political views that person has expressed”

The seven plaintiffs believed “that his or her personal First Amendment rights have been and will continue to be encumbered, and the ability to communicate has been and will be limited because of each individual plaintiff’s personal ownership of a Twitter account that was blocked” by Trump, Buchwald wrote.

The plaintiffs, working with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, sued Trump and White House director of social media Daniel Scavino in July. The lawsuit also included White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and former White House communications director Hope Hicks as defendants, but Buchwald dismissed them from the suit.

Defendants claimed that blocking the seven plaintiffs from the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account didn’t violate their First Amendment rights. A March decision from a U.S. District Court Judge in Kentucky ruled Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin was OK to block constituents from his Twitter account. U.S. District Court Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove wrote that public officials “can choose whom to listen to on those platforms without offending the First Amendment.”

Defendants in Trump’s case also argued the case shouldn’t have been considered before the U.S. District Court judge because of “plaintiff’s lack of standing.”

Buchwald rejected both arguments — deciding the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights were violated and that plaintiffs “established the prerequisites to our jurisdiction.”

The “interactive space” where Twitter users can interact with Trump and his comments on the platform constitutes a designated public forum, Buchwald wrote, adding that “the blocking of the plaintiffs based on their political speech constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment.”

She also determined that “the plaintiffs have established the prerequisites to our jurisdiction: they have experienced a legally cognizable injury, those injuries are traceable to the President and Daniel Scavino’s conduct, and a favorable judicial decision on the merits is likely to redress those injuries.”

On Wednesday, one of the plaintiffs, Dr. Eugene Gu, a Duke University medical school alumnus and contributing writer for The Hill, highlighted the tweet that he said prompted Trump to block him. It said “[t]he same guy who doesn’t proofread his Twitter handles the nuclear button.”

“No government official is above the law — not even the President of the United States,” Gu wrote Wednesday on Twitter.


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