Trump blocking users on Twitter ruled as unconstitutional

24 May 2018

Trump blocking users on Twitter ruled as unconstitutional

A federal judge in New York ruled on Thursday (local time) that US President Donald Trump blocking critics on Twitter is unconstitutional because it violates the right to free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The ruling was handed down by US district judge, Naomi Riece Buchwald, and came in response to a lawsuit filed against Mr Trump by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and several Twitter users.

The judge said she expects Mr Trump or his social media director, Dan Scavino, who was also a defendant on the case, to unblock the users in light of her decision.

The President has made it a personal and integral part of his presidency to post regularly on Twitter via his account @realDonaldTrump to promote his agenda and respond to critics.

Prominent users that Mr Trump are currently blocking include novelists Stephen King and Anne Rice, comedian Rosie O’Donnell, model Chrissy Teigen, actress Marina Sirtis and the military veterans political action committee VoteVets.org.

The Knight First Amendment made the argument that when Mr Trump blocks users on Twitter for their views, he is shutting them out of a public discussion, thereby violating the First Amendment of the right to free speech.

The counterargument, presented by the Justice Department, claimed that Mr Trump was exercising his own First Amendment rights by being able to block users and choosing who he doesn’t want to interact with.

However, Judge Buchwald dismissed the argument, saying that the discussions that arise on his Twitter account are a form of public discussion, and therefore open to all Twitter users.

“While we must recognise, and are sensitive to, the President’s personal First Amendment rights, he cannot exercise those rights in a way that infringes the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticised him,” Judge Buchwald said.

While the Judge said Mr Trump should “remedy the blocking”, she did not give an official order for him to unblock users.