Judge rules Trump can’t block people from Twitter account

Posted on: May 23rd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Twitter(NEW YORK) — A federal judge in New York ruled Wednesday that President Donald Trump can’t block people from his Twitter account because they disagree with his political views, saying such action violates the First Amendment.

U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald issued the ruling in a lawsuit filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

“This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, ‘block’ a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the President of the United States,” the judge wrote in her ruling.

“The answer to both questions is no.”

There was no immediate response from the White House on the ruling.

The Knight First Amendment Institute filed the lawsuit in July 2017 on behalf of seven people who had been blocked from the president’s @realDonaldTrump Twitter account after they had individually “tweeted messages critical of the President or his policies in reply to tweets from @realDonaldTrump.”

The suit also named as defendants Daniel Scavino, the White House director of social media and assistant to the president; White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and former White House communications director Hope Hicks.

In her ruling, the judge said Sanders and Hicks were no longer defendants in the suit.

Since being blocked, the plaintiffs were unable to see the president’s tweets, which include policy proposals and cabinet appointments. The blocked individuals have had to use workarounds or go through third-party accounts to view the president’s tweets, according to the lawsuit.

“These limitations are cognizable injuries-in-fact,” the lawsuit contended. “The individual plaintiffs’ ability to communicate using Twitter has been encumbered by these limitations (regardless of whether they are harms cognizable under the First Amendment),” according to the suit.

In her ruling, Buchwald rejected arguments from the president’s lawyers “that the First Amendment does not apply in this case and that the president’s personal First Amendment interests supersede those of plaintiffs.”

Buchwald issued a “declaratory judgment” on behalf of the plaintiff, specifically stating that “the blocking of the individual plaintiffs from the @realdonaldtrump account because of their expressed political views violates the First Amendment” and writing, “no government official — including the President — is above the law, and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as has been declared.”

“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,” Jameel Jaffer, the Knight Institute’s executive director, said in a statement. “The president’s practice of blocking critics on Twitter is pernicious and unconstitutional, and we hope this ruling will bring it to an end.”

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