President Trump is not legally allowed to block people from following his Twitter account, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday in a decision that will impact how elected officials interact with their constituents online, The Washington Post reports.
In writing the Tuesday decision, which was unanimous, from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, Judge Barrington D. Parker reaffirmed the lower court’s decision that prohibited the president from blocking constituents on the social media site.
“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,” Parker wrote.
The Tuesday decision upholds a previous court ruling.
In May, Judge Naomi Buchwald of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected the Trump administration’s argument that First Amendment rules prohibiting the government from silencing political opponents did not apply in the case brought forth because the president was acting as an individual and not as an arm of the government, per a May report from The Washington Post.
Buchwald ruled against the Trump administration’s arguments in a 75-page decision in May, saying that Twitter was a public forum, and that the president was not above the law.
The case was brought against Trump by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University on behalf of seven individuals in 2017 who were blocked by the president after they posted criticisms of his policies. In June, the Knight First Amendment Institute said the seven plaintiffs were unblocked by Trump’s @realDonaldTrump Twitter account, and said it had received reports of 41 accounts that had also been unblocked by Trump, according to CBS News.
President Trump cannot block his critics on Twitter, federal appeals court rules https://t.co/OkVaDC8eIk— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) July 9, 2019
The Washington Post notes that Buchwald’s May ruling did not require the president to unblock the plaintiffs.
The Trump administration appealed the May ruling, leading to the July ruling reaffirming the lower court’s decision.
The republican president’s behavior online has been different from any president before him in the internet age. Just yesterday, Trump shared an image on Twitter with a quote falsely attributed to former President Ronald Reagan that implied Reagan predicted Trump’s presidency, per a previous report from The Inquisitr.
The White House has repeatedly said that the president’s tweets constitute official White House statements, per CBS News. CBS News notes that the president has often used the San Fransisco-based social media website to make major personnel and policy announcements, including news of the firing of top administration officials.