July 9 (UPI) — A Manhattan federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that President Donald Trump can’t block his critics on Twitter.
A three-judge panel from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a lower court’s ruling that Trump violated the First Amendment by using Twitter’s block feature to prevent certain users from viewing and interacting with his account. The court cited the fact that Trump uses the account to “conduct official business and to interact with the public.”
“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,” the panel stated in its decision.
The ruling did not issue a decision on whether an elected official violates the Constitution by blocking people from a “wholly private” social media account, nor whether private social media companies are bound by the First Amendment when implementing policies on their platforms.
The case was related to a lawsuit filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute on behalf of seven people who were blocked by the president’s @realDonaldTrump twitter account after criticizing him on the website.
Knight Institute Executive Director Jameel Jaffer praised the decision in a statement Tuesday, saying it will help ensure the “integrity and vitality” of digital spaces, such a social media platforms.
“This decision will ensure that people aren’t excluded from these forums simply because of their viewpoints and that public officials aren’t insulated from their constituents’ critics,” Jaffer said.
Plaintiffs Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza, a writer and legal analyst, and Eugene Gu, a surgeon and scientist, celebrated the ruling on Twitter.
“Take us to the supreme court if you dare @realDonald Trump,” wrote Gu.
“If the First Amendment means anything, it means that the best response to disfavored speech on matters of public opinion is more speech, not less.”
-Second Circuit Court of Appeals
So we beat Trump in court. Again.
Take us to the Supreme Court if you dare @realDonaldTrump.— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) July 9, 2019