The heart of tech is coming to the heart of the Mediterranean. Join TNW in València this March 🇪🇸

This article was published on May 23, 2018

Federal Judge rules Trump can’t block people on Twitter

Federal Judge rules Trump can’t block people on Twitter
Tristan Greene
Story by

Tristan Greene

Editor, Neural by TNW

Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: He/him

A Federal Judge today ruled that public access to Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account is protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution. That means, if you’ve been blocked, the president of the United States of America is personally denying your right to free speech.

Plaintiffs, including The Knight First Amendment Institute, alleged that defendants Donald J. Trump, Hope Hicks, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, and Daniel Scavino violated their free speech by blocking them on Twitter for replying to @realDonaldTrump tweets with politically inflammatory comments:

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 court documents shared by Jameel Jaffer, Director of the Knight First Amendment Institute, Federal Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, declared access to Donald Trump’s Twitter account a free speech issue:

Turning to the merits of plaintiffs’ First Amendment claim, we hold that the speech in which they seek to engage is protected by the First Amendment and that the President and Scavino exert governmental control over certain aspects of the @realDonaldTrump account, including the interactive space of the tweets sent from the account. That interactive space is susceptible to analysis under the Supreme Court’s forum doctrines, and is properly characterized as a designated public forum. The viewpoint-based exclusion of the individual plaintiffs from that designated public forum 1s proscribed by the First Amendment and cannot be justified by the President’s personal First Amendment interests.

It wasn’t a complete win for Knight First Amendment Institute and the seven others who brought the case to court. Judge Buchwald ruled the plaintiffs “lack standing, however, to sue Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who is dismissed as a defendant. Hope Hicks is also dismissed as a defendant, in light of her resignation as White House Communications Director.”

But, according to Judge Buchwald, Donald Trump — or whoever is in charge of the @realDonaldTrump account — is legally bound to unblock everyone:

Finally, we consider what form of relief should be awarded, as plaintiffs seek both declaratory relief and injunctive relief. While we reject defendants’ categorical assertion that injunctive relief cannot ever be awarded against the President, we nonetheless conclude that it is unnecessary to enter that legal thicket at this time. A declaratory judgment should be sufficient, as no government official — including the President — is above the law, and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as has been declared.

That part seems pretty cut-and-dry. Unfortunately, the president’s office doesn’t appear to be aware of the unblock order. We reached out to Brian Krassenstein (@Krassentstein), and his brother Ed Krassenstein (@EdKrassen) – two political guys we were all but certain had been blocked by Trump. It turns out (we confirmed with Brian) they had been blocked, and still were – as of the time of publishing.

No matter what your political views are, I think we can all agree that the fact we live in a country where former reality TV star, and current US president, Donald Trump may be held in contempt of court for not unblocking Stephen King on Twitter is reason enough to take a step back and examine ourselves, as a nation.

H/t: The Hill