Earlier this year a federal judge ruled that President Donald Trump was violating the First Amendment when he blocked Twitter users from being able to read his tweets. And so Trump unblocked a handful of Twitter users he’d previously barred from being able to access his tweets. But according to the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, President Trump has continued to block Twitter users despite the ruling.
“As the district court has held, the First Amendment prohibits the president from blocking Twitter users simply because they’ve criticized him,” senior staff attorney Katie Fallow said in a statement released by the Knight Institute. “Given that ruling, the president and his aides should unblock all of the Twitter users who have been blocked from the @realDonaldTrump account on the basis of viewpoint.”
The institute alleged Friday that although Trump has unblocked the seven plaintiff’s named in their lawsuit against him, he has continued to block other users despite a judge’s ruling noting that his view-point based blocking violated the First Amendment. Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled in May that, because he is president, Trump’s Twitter account constitutes a “public forum.” She held that in blocking users who expressed dissent Trump was essentially censoring who could participate in that public forum and thus violating the Constitutional rights of those he barred.
“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,” the New York Times reported Judge Buchwald wrote in her ruling. According to NBC News, the Trump administration had argued that “associational freedoms” in the First Amendment gave the president the right to block Twitter users at his discretion. They have appealed Buchwald’s ruling
But although the Trump administration has appealed, the Knight Institute announced Friday that it had given the Justice Department the names of 41 Twitter users still blocked by the @realDonaldTrump account on the basis of viewpoint. They are requesting the president lift blocks on all Twitter users who were barred from viewing or responding to his tweets because of their viewpoint despite the fact that Buchwald’s ruling did not explicitly state that the president had to unblock anyone.
“Although we recognize that the district court’s ruling does not expressly require defendants to take this action, the court has made clear that defendants’ blocking of individuals from the account on the basis of viewpoint is unconstitutional,” the institute wrote in a letter to the Justice Department. Among those on the Knight Institute’s list of still blocked users are comedian and Decently Funny podcast David Nussbaum and technologist weblogger Tom Coates.
While Trump once vowed to give up Twitter once he entered the White House, the president has long acknowledged how valuable the social media network is to his outreach and engagement with voters. In fact, over the course of his presidency Trump has used Twitter to make major announcements like his ban on transgender troops and Rex Tillerson’s ousting as secretary of State. So imagine what you might miss if you were blocked from reading @realDonaldTrump’s tweets.