A federal appeals court has ruled unanimously that US President Donald Trump can no longer ban critics on his Twitter account. The president, who uses his twitter feed for “all manner of official purposes” was found to be in violation of the first amendment when blocking critics and prohibiting open dialogue.
“The First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise-open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees,” wrote Circuit Judge Barrington Parker.
Today’s decision is the result of a case brought forward by Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute. The organization represented seven plaintiffs blocked by Trump, and pointed to a plethora of instances where the president has silenced social media dissidents.
Trump has used his @RealDonaldTrump account in the past to announce policy, firings, and resignations. It has been the explicit position of the White House that these tweets, a hallmark of Trump’s presidency, bear an official status.
This official quality, the court concluded, makes Trump’s account a public forum.
“Public officials’ social media accounts are now among the most significant forums for discussion of government policy,” said the Knight Institute’s director in a statement.
“This decision will ensure that people aren’t excluded from these forums simply because of their viewpoints, and that public officials aren’t insulated from their constituents’ criticism.”
The court considered contemporary dialogue surrounding public officials to have an effervescence “the likes of which have rarely been seen.” The responsibility of politicians rests on fueling this vivacious debate and interchange rather than suppressing it. Even the most disagreeable of opinions should be tackled critically, rather than quieted.
The court's verdict is in line with a 2018 ruling by U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan. Buchwald found that “no government official—including the President—is above the law.”