On Tuesday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Donald Trump cannot block Twitter users from his official account. The court ruled the practice as discriminatory.
The new ruling upholds a lower court ruling that found Trump could not block Twitter users.
In May of last year, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled the president was violating the constitutional rights of Americans by blocking them and thus, making them unable to see the president’s tweets.
Trump uses Twitter multiple times a day to make announcements, insult people and misspell words. He also uses it to share changes within his administration.
The ruling judges wrote, “that 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.”
Judge Barrington Parker, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote in affirmation of the district court’s ruling.
“Because we agree that in blocking the Individual Plaintiffs the President engaged in prohibited viewpoint discrimination, we affirm,” Parker wrote.
Parker explained that the court did not take a stance on banning users from a private account or whether the First Amendment governed speech on social media platforms.
“We do conclude, however, that 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 public presentation of the Account and the webpage associated with it bear all the trappings of an official, state‐run account,” Parker explained, meaning that the First Amendment governed the conduct of the account.
The lawsuit was brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University on behalf of seven people who had been blocked by Trump on Twitter.
The plaintiffs in the case were unblocked in June, and the Knight First Amendment Institute said it later received reports that up to 41 other names it pointed out to the DOJ have also been unblocked.
The judges wrote in the opinion that Trump’s Twitter account shows “all the trappings of an official, state‐run account,” and that Trump and his aides have described his tweets as “official statements.”
And they noted that the National Archives, “the agency of government responsible for maintaining the government’s records, has concluded that the President’s tweets are official records.”
The blocked Twitter users argued that the other options for viewing Trump’s tweets were “too burdensome.” The judges noted that the Twitter users were blocked after being critical of Trump.
“We conclude that the evidence of the official nature of the Account is overwhelming,” the opinion reads. “We also conclude that once the President has chosen a platform and opened up its interactive space to millions of users and participants, he may not selectively exclude those whose views he disagrees with.
The ruling made it clear that their ruling did not require social media companies to take on any further policies, or that the Constitution does not allow for other Twitter users to block each other.
The administration had argued that Trump was blocking the users in his personal capacity, but the judges disagreed.
”The fact that any Twitter user can block another account does not mean that the President somehow becomes a private person when he does so,” they wrote.
The move comes as Trump is set to hold a Presidential Social Media Summit on Thursday. For some reason, representatives from Facebook and Twitter will not be attending the summit.
Trump currently has over 60 million Twitter followers