Trump’s blocking of critics ruled unconstitutional

Trump's Twitter account.
Trump's Twitter account.

Trump’s blocking of critics ruled unconstitutional

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that he can’t block users since he uses Twitter for government business.
July 10, 2019

President Trump’s use of Twitter – his favorite political tool – has also been the source of constitutional violations, according to a Tuesday court ruling. A three-judge panel sitting at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled unanimously that because Trump uses his Twitter account for government business, he can’t block other users because they have disagreed with or mocked him. 

“We’re pleased that the Second Circuit unanimously upheld the public’s right to access the president’s Twitter feed – for better and for worse, I guess,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, told City & State on Tuesday. “Who ever would have thought that the president would be governing on Twitter? But he is, and as a result of that, he can’t block participation by members of the public he doesn’t like.” 

Earlier this year, the NYCLU called out U.S. Rep. Peter King for blocking dozens of users from his Facebook page. King argued that he used that page for campaign and not governing purposes – the implication being that it therefore didn’t constitute an official government public forum. Trump’s Twitter account, on the other hand, is often used to make public pronouncements about policy decisions. King, however, quickly made a separate, official Facebook page for governing purposes that wouldn’t block users. Lieberman also pointed out that there is a difference between disagreeing with somebody and threatening somebody. Threats of violence against individuals, for example, fall outside First Amendment protections.

Still, the ruling could continue to have First Amendment implications for other New York politicians. Former New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind sued U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday, claiming that the congresswoman blocked him on Twitter for “opinions he expressed” about her.

For the rest of today's tech news, head over to First Read Tech.

Annie McDonough
is a tech and policy reporter at City & State.