President Donald Trump is violating Americans’ First Amendment right to free speech by blocking them on Twitter, a federal judge has ruled.
Given Twitter is a public forum used very liberally by the president, restricting access due to respondents’ political beliefs has been ruled unconstitutional.
The case was brought to court by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, but its success doesn’t guarantee Trump will halt the practice.
“The president’s practice of blocking critics on Twitter is pernicious and unconstitutional, and we hope this ruling will bring it to an end,” Knight Institute executive director Jameel Jaffer said (via VentureBeat).
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Getting Trump to unblock users who’ve offended his sensibilities sounds about as easy as ensuring every hair remains in place after he disembarks a helicopter. And about as likely as Twitter summoning the courage to ban him for his near-constant violations of its user policies. Remember that time he used the platform to threaten nuclear war with North Korea?
Designated public forum
Anyway, we digress. The White House is yet to comment on the ruling, but the verdict could be appealed by the president’s ever-growing legal team.
The court’s decision is particularly interesting, at a time when Twitter is testing new tools to prevent abuse on the platform. For all of Trump’s social media misbehaviour, the man takes some absolutely horrendous abuse on the microblog.
Twitter’s latest strategy is simply to use machine learning to block abusers, but will that be enough to quell the constant stream of dissent?
In the ruling U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald wrote: “We hold that portions of the @realDonaldTrump account — the “interactive space” where Twitter users may directly engage with the content of the President’s tweets — are properly analyzed under the “public forum” doctrines set forth by the Supreme Court, that such space is a designated public forum, and that the blocking of the plaintiffs based on their political speech constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment.”
Where is the line between protecting users’ freedom of speech and guarding against rampaging abuse, when it come to world leaders? Let us know @TrustedReviews on Twitter.