President Donald Trump will have to lay off the block button on Twitter. A federal court has ruled that the leader of the US can’t block users on the social network, because it’s a public forum.
The unanimous decision by the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit affirms the ruling made by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York in 2018 afterthe previous year.
“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 Judge Barrington D. Parker.
In the 2017 lawsuit, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University represented several Twitter users blocked by the president. The organization said that blocking users “imposes an unconstitutional restriction on their participation in a designated public forum.”
“Public officials’ social media accounts are now among the most significant forums for discussion of government policy,” Jameel Jaffer, the Knight Institute’s executive director, said in a release Tuesday. “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 decision will help ensure the integrity and vitality of digital spaces that are increasingly important to our democracy.”
The Department of Justice, which represented Trump in the appeal, says the action of blocking users on his personal account isn’t unconstitutional.
“We are disappointed with the court’s decision and are exploring possible next steps,” Kelly Laco, spokesperson for the agency, said in an emailed statement Tuesday. “As we argued, President Trump’s decision to block users from his personal Twitter account does not violate the First Amendment.”
The court’s decision comes after a report that Facebook and Twitter weren’t extended an invitation to the White House’s social media summit set for Thursday.
Originally published July 9, 10:38 a.m. PT.
Update, 12:29 p.m.: Adds statement from the DOJ.