President Donald Trump can’t block users from seeing his tweets, a federal judge ruled today.
The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University brought forth the lawsuit on behalf of seven people who had been blocked by President Trump. They argued that the president’s Twitter account constituted a “public forum,” and that by blocking users, President Trump was violating the First Amendment.
“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,” U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald wrote outlining today’s decision.
“The president’s practice of blocking critics on Twitter is pernicious and unconstitutional, and we hope this ruling will bring it to an end,” Knight Institute executive director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement.
Along with Trump, current White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, and White House Director of Social Media Dan Scavino were named as defendants in the lawsuit. There’s no word yet on if President Trump and his lawyers will appeal the ruling.
Twitter has faced criticism from some users, mostly left-leaning ones, about how it’s treated President Trump compared to other Twitter users one-and-a-half years into his presidency. They say that tweets like the one President Trump sent out in September threatening to attack North Korea violate Twitter’s user policies, and Twitter should punish President Trump like they would any other user. Some, like my colleague Emil Protalinski, think that it’s past time for Twitter to ban President Trump.
In other political Twitter news, the company announced today that it would be introducing “U.S. election labels” in time for the 2018 midterms. The labels will contain relevant information for voters about candidates running for governor, the U.S. Senate, or the U.S. House. Twitter says it will be working with nonprofit organization Ballotpedia to develop the labels, and they’ll roll out starting May 30.