President Donald Trump can no longer block critical Twitter users from viewing his tweets, as that practice is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York wrote in her ruling that the president’s tweets are considered to belong to a “public forum” and that using Twitter’s “block” feature against his antagonists violates the First Amendment. She added: “no government official—including the President—is above the law.”
The government had argued that while Trump’s tweets serve as official administration statements, any blocked user could still access the president’s posts elsewhere. Buchwald agreed, but said that blocking a user with opposing political views still prevented the user from fully interacting with the president’s account—whether it be by retweeting, replying, and so on. She suggested that going forth, the president mute users instead.
“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,” Buchwald wrote.
The lawsuit that led to Wednesday’s ruling was filed last July by the Knight First Amendment Institute on behalf of users who had criticized Trump on Twitter and subsequently been blocked from reading his tweets.
“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,” Knight Institute executive director Jameel Jaffer 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.”