Court rules Donald Trump must stop blocking Twitter critics

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A U.S. federal court today ruled that President Donald Trump can not block his followers on Twitter as this violated the First Amendment.

A USA district court has ruled that President Donald Trump can not block Twitter users from his account due to their political views. At that time, Judge Buchwald urged both parties to find a resolution outside of court.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and seven people who were blocked by Trump had filed the lawsuit a year ago.

"We respectfully disagree with the court's decision and are considering our next steps", a spokesman said.

Read the full opinion here. But the Justice Department had argued Trump was largely acting in a personal capacity, much like "giving a toast at a wedding or giving a speech at a fundraiser".

Cohen said Trump had not yet unblocked him as of late Wednesday afternoon.

"Because no government official is above the law", Judge Buchwald concluded on Wednesday, "we must assume that the President and Scavino will remedy the blocking we have held to be unconstitutional". The president has over 52 million followers on the platform and seemingly views it as a vital way to communicate with the public.

The Knight Institute sued Trump last spring on behalf of seven Trump critics who had been blocked on Twitter, arguing that Trump's use of Twitter to announce policy and engage with the public constituted a public forum.

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Twitter declined to comment on the ruling while the White House and the U.S. Department of Justice, which represents the president in the case, did not immediately comment.

That interactive space is susceptible to analysis under the Supreme Court's forum doctrines, and is properly characterised as a designated public forum, judge Buchwald said.

The judge acknowledged that even though the president has certain free speech rights, he can not violate the rights of other Twitter users.

She noted that another defendant, Daniel Scavino - the White House's social media director and an assistant to the president - can unblock those followers without the president needing to do it himself.

In July 2017, Trump was sued by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in NY, along with seven individual Twitter users.

While the ruling narrowly targets the Trump administration and is not binding on other public officials, it establishes an important legal precedent that they will be likely to follow.

"I think this decision is correct", Giampietro said.

Twitter has always been dogged by questions about how far its users' right to speech may extend.

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