Published: Fri, May 25, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

Twitter block ruled violation of First Amendment

Twitter block ruled violation of First Amendment

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in a Manhattan court ruled on Thursday morning (AEST) that Mr Trump may not legally block Twitter users because doing so violates their rights under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

A federal judge in NY ruled Wednesday that President Trump is in violation of the Constitution when he blocks users on Twitter. At that time, Judge Buchwald urged both parties to find a resolution outside of court.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which filed the lawsuit for the seven Twitter users Trump blocked, had argued that such blocking was a way to turn a public forum into an echo chamber of positive sentiment and that blocking was a seeing Twitter being "sanitised of dissent".

"The court ruling is a major win for the First Amendment rights of the public on social media", says EFF civil liberties director David Greene. Users can still reply to tweets after they've been muted, even if those replies are never seen, the ruling pointed out.

Under the ruling, Buchwald did not order Trump to unblock his followers, saying that a finding that clarifies the law is sufficient to resolve the dispute.

"Because no government official is above the law and because all government officials are presumed to follow the law once the judiciary has said what the law is, we must assume that the president and Scavino will remedy the blocking we have held to be unconstitutional", the judge wrote in her opinion.

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Trump has garnered over 52.2 million followers posting about everything from the National Football League to North Korea to his disdain for Robert Mueller probe into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. The feature prevents selected accounts from appearing in a user's Twitter mentions - effectively blocking them from Trump's view.

What's more, Buchwald said, the space below Trump's tweets that show the public's replies are a public forum, because it is "generally accessible to the public" and anyone with a Twitter account is able to view those responses, assuming that the user has not been blocked.

Twitter declined to comment on the ruling while the White House and the U.S. Department of Justice, which represents the president in the case, did not immediately comment.

Duke University constitutional law professor Stuart Benjamin said he disagreed with Buchwald's finding that parts of Trump and other officials' Twitter accounts were public forums.

"I think this decision is correct", Giampietro said.

Considering Trump's position as a public official, a federal judge on Thursday ruled that he can not legally block his followers on Twitter based on their political views. "That is much less restrictive and burdensome on the plaintiffs' speech rights".

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