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Judge Rules Trump Cannot Block Critics on Twitter

May 24, 2018 | Information Management, Records Management

A Manhattan federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Trump violated the First Amendment when he blocked critics from his personal Twitter account.          

The complaint was raised in July 2017, when a group of Twitter users sued President Trump after he blocked them from his account @realDonaldTrump. The seven users, who were blocked after criticising the President, were joined in the lawsuit by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. Their lawyers argued that Mr. Trump’s Twitter feed is an official government account and public record, and that blocking users from following it was a violation of their First Amendment rights. 

Lawyers on behalf of Trump insisted that the Twitter feed was not a public forum and that no one had been meaningfully excluded from it, however U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald did not agree.               

“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,” Buchwald said. “The answer to both questions is no.”      

“The viewpoint-based exclusion of the individual plaintiffs from that designated public forum is proscribed by the First Amendment and cannot be justified by the President’s personal First Amendment interests,” she wrote.               

Buchwald refused to issue an order forcing Trump to unblock the users, stating her ruling was adequate. “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,” Buchwald wrote.

This is an interesting ruling, especially as similar questions are raised in Australia about personal social media accounts and apps used by Australian public officials for work and non-work purposes. There’s a very good possibility that the next issue raised is whether tweets on Trump’s personal Twitter account can be deleted.

Liza Tinker

Liza Tinker

Business Consultant

Liza is a SharePoint consultant with over 15 years’ experience in the private and public sector in the use and delivery of SharePoint and other collaboration solutions using Microsoft 365. She is passionate about technology and improving productivity and quality through collaboration and innovation.

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