Trump Can No Longer Block His Haters on Twitter, a Federal Court Rules

Excluding them “constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment.”

Oliver Contreras/ZUMA

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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.”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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