In a 3-0 decision, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan determined that the Constitution does not permit Trump to limit access to his account, which otherwise is open to the public.
In its response to the decision, the U.S. Department of Justice called the ruling “fundamentally misconceived.” The DOJ argued that Trump is on Twitter in a personal capacity, not as a public government figure.
Seven Twitter users filed the original lawsuit via the Knight First Amendment Institute after Trump blocked them from his account in 2017. A federal judge ruled in their favor in May 2018, saying Trump and plaintiffs engaged in “unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination” by limiting certain users’ access to his social media account because he disagreed with their speech.
“We do conclude … 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,” the appeals court said in today’s 29-page ruling (read it here).
After the district court’s ruling, Trump unblocked the plaintiffs while appealing the decision.
“Public officials’ social media accounts are now among the most significant forums for discussion of government policy,” Knight Institute executive director Jameel Jaffer, who argued before the appeals court in March, said after Tuesday’s ruling. “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.”
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