Judge Rules: Trump Not Allowed to Block on Twitter

Judge gavel on a wooden desk, Trump tweets

Lawsuits Filed by Blocked Twitter Users

On May 23rd, 2018, a New York Federal Judge determined from a lawsuit filed in the summer of last year that the President is not allowed to block other Twitter users due to the First Amendment. Last year, President Trump began blocking some of the verified accounts on Twitter who would religiously respond to his tweets. This resulted in a lawsuit being filed by the blocked Twitter users, which led to the Judge’s ruling.

What is interesting about this is that the Court ruled that the response section of the President's tweets are now considered, in legal terms, a “public forum.”

The ruling reads as follows:

“We then proceed to the substance of plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims. We hold that portions of the @realDonaldTrump account -- the “interactive space” where Twitter users may directly engage with the content of the President’s tweets -- are properly analyzed under the “public forum” doctrines set forth by the Supreme Court, that such space is a designated public forum, and that the blocking of the plaintiffs based on their political speech constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment. In so holding, we reject the defendant's’ contentions that the First Amendment does not apply in this case and that the President’s personal First Amendment interests supersede those of plaintiffs.”

What Does This Mean?

A public forum is a place where you can say whatever you want as long as you are not inciting violence and no one can do anything about it aside from replying. Essentially, as long as you do not threaten to mail a bomb to the White House, you should, in theory, be able to say to the President whatever you want and nothing can be done. However, as conservatives are well aware, Twitter and the rest of Silicon Valley have a massive history of censoring conservative ideas, as well as public figures, in the name of fighting hate speech or for their many other reasons.

One most notable example is when Milo Yiannopoulos’s Twitter account was banned. Twitters’ site-wide rules, if they were brought to court, would be found as anti-first amendment, as there is no such thing as “hate speech” in the legal world. Unless they can bend the site-wide rules to not apply to the Presidents Twitter comments, Twitter is infringing on the now recognized public forum of the reply section of the President's tweets. Also worth noting, verified accounts on Twitter are naturally the first ones seen in reply sections since verified accounts are given priority over non-verified accounts. This means that the verification system on Twitter is now giving a bias towards certain voices instead of treating everyone's speech as equal.

This Goes Beyond Twitter

In theory, this precedent can be stretched far beyond Twitter replies and may be applied to the entire website, as well as other social media, if appropriate class action lawsuits are filed by victims of whichever censorship from whichever platform. In reality, the President's Twitter reply section is no different from his Facebook page and Instagram account, so the precedent can easily be interpreted in this way.

Senator Cruz [R] - Texas, has long been a hawk on social media censorship of conservatives, most recently grilling Mark Zuckerberg about censorship during his testimony to Congress about the Cambridge Analytica scandal earlier this year. Other Republican lawmakers have shown a deep concern over the apparent practice of censorship on social media, threatening tight regulations on Silicon Valley. Another notable example of Twitters censorship was the mass burying of DNC email hack tweets, claiming that they were just controlling bots.

Should President Trump Fight This Ruling?

If the President wanted to continue fighting this ruling, for whatever reason, he and his lawyers would probably argue the official @POTUS account is a “Limited Public Forum.” It was created by the government voluntarily for expressive activity that may be restricted as to subject matter or class of speaker; therefore, he can block whomever he wants. This would obviously not apply to the President's personal account because it was created years before the President decided to run for office.

That being said, if the ruling stands, this can turn the tide on the massive censorship campaign being conducted by the tech giants and allow once again the free exchange of ideas that the country so desperately needs.

Kyle Frank / Writer

I live in Upstate New York and I became interested in politics late in 2016. I am excited and honored to be with New Right Network.
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  1. Taking Devil's Advocate here:
    All public official's words are generally archived for history. The President would be head of that list, not exempt. Likewise, all responses to the President which are public would be called public grievances, or redress, as provided by the Constitution. In this hyper age of social media, Twitter would be included as to be archived. This doesn't mean I condone or accept the vulgar and violent responses to Trump's tweets, but they *are* part of the public discourse, unfortunately.




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