President Donald John Trump can’t ban his critics from posting on his Twitter account, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled today.
A three-judge panel agreed with the lower court judge’s decision determining the president violates the First Amendment when he blocks critics among his 60 million followers from commenting on his official page.
A New York judge’s ruling previously found that Trump “engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination by using Twitter’s “blocking” feature, eliminating users’ access to posting on the president’s social media account, which is otherwise open to the public at large.
All because someone who disagrees with the president criticized him.
“We hold that he engaged in such discrimination,” the appeals court ruling found.
“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,” the appeals court judges determined.
The ruling came after a complaint was filed in federal court by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which sued on behalf of seven U.S. citizens blocked for posting comments critical of Trump on his Twitter page, according to CBS San Francisco.
Attorney Jennifer Utrecht, who represented the president, said during oral arguments that the account was created before Trump became president and that he was acting in his private capacity when he blocked citizens from criticizing him as the President of the United States.
Circuit Judge Barrington D. Parker criticized her arguments, which may have foreshadowed today’s ruling.
“Are you seriously urging us to believe that the president is not acting in his official capacity when he is tweeting?” Parker said.
“Why isn’t that just a quintessential First Amendment violation?”
The circuit court of appeals ruled that the First Amendment doesn’t allow a public official using a social media account for “all manner of official purposes” to ban people from an open discussions when they disagree with their critics.
In 2014 , we covered a similar story after San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore removed the department’s Facebook page following a lawsuit filed on behalf of Dimitri Karras after the department removed his comments, which were critical of the sheriff and his qualifications for the job.
Karras’ Attorney, Scott McMillan, said the lawsuit, “Will be very big. I see it as Government bringing up their skill set on free speech up to standards–current standards. They would [probably] know better to do something like this in front of their building, why do they think their digital public forum is any different?”
Karras, who said it was about principle to him more than money, settled the case for $20 after the state agreed to pay his attorney’s fees.