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Judge rules that President Trump can't block people on Twitter

By midian182 · 34 replies
May 24, 2018
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  1. President Trump’s love of Twitter has long been a source of controversy, especially as he has habit of blocking people. Now, a federal judge has ruled that this is a violation of people’s First Amendment rights. Additionally, the court said that he most unblock all previously blocked users.

    The situation began back in June last year, when free-speech group the Knight First Amendment Institute at New York's Columbia University sent a letter to Trump demanding he unblocks accounts. It claimed those who had been blocked are having their free speech protections violated.

    Trump’s administration failed to respond, leading to the group filing a lawsuit on behalf of seven blocked Twitter users in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

    A big part of the lawsuit rested on whether Twitter qualified as a public forum. Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that it does, meaning that the President blocking users is unconstitutional in that it violates their right to free speech.

    "This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, 'block' a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the President of the United States," wrote the judge. "The answer to both questions is no."

    Trump’s social media manager, Daniel Scavino, is also implicated in this lawsuit, as were Hope Hicks and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, both of whom were dismissed as defendants.

    Trump argued that as he does much of his tweeting from a personal account, the “public forum” designation doesn’t apply.

    Department of Justice spokesperson Kerri Kupec said, “We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision and are considering our next steps.”

    No injunction has been issued forcing Trump and Scavino to unblock users. It appears that many of them are still blocked.

    Permalink to story.


    IAMTHESTIG TS Evangelist Posts: 1,636   +735

    Apart from Trump being generally obnoxious on Twitter, it is not a government provided service so he absolutely has the right to block people on it. YT is violating people's 1A rights yet the judge has nothing to say about that... interesting.
  3. "Judge! Judge! The orange man blocked me :("

    Such fragile individuals.
    Agnomen, psycros, Tonia73986 and 4 others like this.
  4. ShagnWagn

    ShagnWagn TS Guru Posts: 537   +369

    While it would be best he doesn't post at all (given his history), it technically is a private website. As with all other websites, apparently free speech does NOT apply. So I guess if I was a "public official" that I can't block any of you on here? Wth his this crap?

    If the president or anyone else is using this site as a public announcement of government affairs (and not personal thoughts), then they should have to remove their account. This is similar to hillary's private email server used for (sensitive) government business that even got hacked.

    If it was a government website (funded by us through taxes), then no he can't block. I'm sorry, but I don't see how this judge is a real judge.
    cliffordcooley and psycros like this.
  5. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,301   +1,320

    While I agree, it seems that the court decided that since Trump is using Twitter as a public official, people who are tweeting him can argue that his account is now "public domain" and therefore he cannot block these people.

    My argument would be what happens if someone tweets something blatantly racist/homophobic/vulgar/etc.... that post would, I assume, go against Twitter's usage policy, and could be taken down.... but by Trump? Or only by Trump reporting it to Twitter admins and having them block/ban the user?

    Honestly, if public officials must have Twitter accounts (I'm not truly convinced they need one, but that's a different conversation), perhaps Twitter should be making special "Public Official" accounts that have specific rules (like no-blocking) and are verified, etc...

    As always, technology has outraced legislation.... now they try and catch up :)
    psycros likes this.
  6. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,424   +1,821

    I am not a lawyer, but this does not seem out of the range of the definition of a public figure - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_figure

    We'll see what the future brings if the administration attempts to pursue this further.

    Pretty easy to flip the individuals making the arguments in this case. I will say no more.
  7. Cal Jeffrey

    Cal Jeffrey TS Evangelist Posts: 1,533   +365

    I don't think that he generally does block people. Look back at any of his tweets and you practically see nothing but trolls. Honestly, I think he ran out of f***s to give in regard to the haters.
  8. OutlawCecil

    OutlawCecil TS Guru Posts: 594   +434

    If Trump uses his personal account to post ANY kind of news from the whitehouse in any way-shape-or-form, he's using it as a public forum and therefor cannot block people. Reading Trumps twitter ramblings over the last year, it's obvious why the Judge came to this decision.
  9. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 4,863   +3,309

    LOL ...... you got to love it!
  10. Silvernine

    Silvernine TS Enthusiast Posts: 43   +35

    "The President is the President of the United States, so they're considered official statements by the President of the United States." -Sean Spicer

    The reasoning the judge made, which falls in line with the courts, for the longest, time, is that if the government creates a "public forum," it must make that forum available to all speakers. In this case, while Twitter is a private company, and thus the 1st amendment does not apply, President Trump decided to use it like a public forum so irrespective of the fact that Twitter is a private company, his Twitter account has become a public forum and therefore he cannot block people. The judge did say that he could have simply used the mute button.

    This is the same reasoning that was used against Phyllis Randall, democratic chairwoman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors in Virginia, who was blocking people on Facebook. It's consistent.
    Last edited: May 24, 2018
    wiyosaya and Evernessince like this.
  11. SamuraiSamson

    SamuraiSamson TS Booster Posts: 50   +33

    He did block people though which resulted in this ruling. To be frank, it seems like the court does not give a f*** about Trump giving a f***
    Silvernine and wiyosaya like this.
  12. SamuraiSamson

    SamuraiSamson TS Booster Posts: 50   +33

    More like

    Judge:Why did you violate the plaintiffs 1A rights?
    Orange Man: But they hurt my fee-fees and made me SAD!
    Judge:Eat s***
  13. Cal Jeffrey

    Cal Jeffrey TS Evangelist Posts: 1,533   +365

    I realize that, which is why I said in general.
  14. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 3,515   +2,825

    I can imagine Twitter getting sued if they started taking down posts aimed at the president. Vulgar speech is allowed in public forums. It's only illegal when it becomes harassment. It's not like you saw cops go out and arrest all the "Unite the Right" in charlottesville for their numerous slurs and hate speech. That was a public forum and the judge just classified Trump's twitter account as the exact same.

    Hmm, I seem to remember multiple instances of this happening with guns rights. It's more like

    ""Judge! Judge! The black man might take my guns away :(""

    That never came to be and Faux is still running it's gun nut fear factory for 2A right violation that have never occurred. There are only 2 states in the US that enforce all the optional mental health provisions for background checks and the assault rifle ban of 1968, which limits mag size and assault style weapons from civs, expired in 2006. We don't even have protection in place that they thought were needed in 1968, let alone now with the more advanced weaponry we have.
    Silvernine likes this.
  15. havok585

    havok585 TS Booster Posts: 190   +53

    Hahaha, this is so funny, so the leader of the "free world" cant exercise his free speech but the ones he blocked (you know, they annoy him so he blocks them, easy) are whining about their free speech ? bwhahah

    Can this be more ridiculous and hypocritic on their part?
  16. Remember who we're talking about here.
    Cal Jeffrey likes this.
  17. Cal Jeffrey

    Cal Jeffrey TS Evangelist Posts: 1,533   +365

    Yeah. Just about the time that you think it can't get more hypocritical, someone comes along and says, "Hold my beer."
  18. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 12,553   +1,440

    Once again we see just how little he understands.... sigh
    Silvernine and wiyosaya like this.

    IAMTHESTIG TS Evangelist Posts: 1,636   +735

    What the heck are you trying to say here? NFA of 1934, GCA of 1968, Hughes Amendment, and even USC 922(c) all violate the 2A.
  20. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 3,515   +2,825

    I'm not even going to address this comment as you are suggesting removing basic gun licensing and the distinction between civilian and military class weapons including the sale of IEDs.
    Silvernine and wiyosaya like this.
  21. 2A was created explicitly for use against the state (see: the military). The idea that there should be restrictions or licensing based on class (military or civilian) are both violation of the right to arms. You can't disprove this so you're just running from it.
    Cal Jeffrey likes this.
  22. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,424   +1,821

    SCOTUS thinks otherwise.
    Silvernine and SamuraiSamson like this.
  23. Bao Nguyen

    Bao Nguyen TS Booster Posts: 73   +43

    I blocked Donald Trump
  24. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,208   +4,873

    Assuming one never subscribes to Donald Trump, how can they block Donald Trump? Does one automatically get Donald Trump's crap when they make a Twitter account?
  25. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 3,515   +2,825

    You don't even have to have a twitter account to get his messages. They are spread to all the mainstream media and other internet publications pretty quickly. That sort of thing is going to happen no matter where the president posts simply because it's the president. The difference with twitter is that it's more of quick blurb platform. You can issue messages so quickly that it doesn't really give you enough time to properly think it though. I guess many online forums have that problem. I almost wish many of them would do a 5 minute countdown after finishing a post to edit before even displaying the comment publicly as we all make mistakes and sometimes rush to comment after our emotions get the better of us.
    Silvernine and wiyosaya like this.

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