October 23, 2018

Trump’s Blocking of Twitter Users Is Unconstitutional, Judge Says

“The position the Trump administration is taking is that the president is entitled to block people, and that the court lacks the ability to order him to do otherwise,” Mr. Jaffer said. “The right thing for the president and his social media director to do would be to log into the president’s account and unblock everyone who has been blocked on the basis of viewpoint.”

There have been other legal cases involving public officials and their social media activity. In April, Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland settled a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and several other plaintiffs who accused him of censorship on government-operated Facebook pages. A similar federal lawsuit filed against Gov. Paul R. LePage of Maine is awaiting a ruling.

In a March hearing, Judge Buchwald had suggested that Mr. Trump has the right to ignore whomever he pleases on Twitter, and that the “Mute” feature is a constitutional option for doing so. Using that feature would hide selected users’ posts from Mr. Trump’s view.

She urged the two parties to consider that possibility as a way to settle the matter. But the president’s preference for blocking — which renders Twitter users unable to interact directly with his posts, or with other users in the space beneath those posts — amounts to barring Americans from a public forum, in the judge’s view.

Indeed, many of the tweets for which users were blocked were attempts to join the sprawling conversations that take place around the president’s feed.

Nick Pappas, a comic and writer, was blocked after replying to the president in June. Mr. Trump had tweeted, “The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court – seek much tougher version!” Mr. Pappas replied: “Trump is right. The government should protect the people. That’s why the courts are protecting us from him.”

Another plaintiff, Rebecca Buckwalter, who is now an editor for the left-leaning website The Daily Kos, was blocked for replying to a June tweet from Mr. Trump that read, “Sorry folks, but if I would have relied on the Fake News of CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, washpost or nytimes, I would have had ZERO chance winning WH.”

“To be fair you didn’t win the WH: Russia won it for you,” Ms. Buckwalter tweeted, shortly before being blocked. After Wednesday’s ruling, she took to Twitter again: “I sued the President, and I won.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/23/business/media/trump-twitter-block.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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