President Donald Trump cannot legally block his critics on Twitter, a federal appellate court ruled Tuesday (July 9). The 3-0 decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a New York judge’s ruling in May 2018 that Trump violated the First Amendment rights of users he disagreed with when he blocked them. Trump has nearly 62 million followers on Twitter.
“The First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees,” Judge Barrington D. Parker wrote on behalf of the three-member panel upholding the earlier ruling.
“In resolving this appeal, we remind the litigants and the public that if the First Amendment means anything, it means that the best response to disfavored speech on matters of public concern is more speech, not less,” Parker added.
The case was brought by Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute on behalf of seven Twitter users critical of the president who were banned by him on the micro-blogging website. The president has made his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account a critical component of his time in office, using it to launch salvos against his critics at home and abroad after tweeting his way through the 2016 campaign trail.
The First Amendment is the U.S. Constitution’s free speech clause, and has been interpreted as barring governments from excluding critical voices. Neither Trump nor the Justice Department that represented him in court had immediate reaction to the ruling.
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