Trump Twitter Ban Violates the First Amendment, SDNY Judge Holds

In a decision issued today, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia Univ. et al v. Donald Trump et al, 17-cv-5205 (S.D.N.Y. May 23, 2018), U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald held that Donald Trump may not, consistent with the First Amendment, “block” Twitter users from his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account based on their political views.

From the decision:

This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, “block” a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the President of the United States. The answer to both questions is no. …

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. In so holding, we reject the defendants’ contentions that the First Amendment does not apply in this case and that the President’s personal First Amendment interests supersede those of plaintiffs.

Judge Buchwald declined to “enter th[e] legal thicket” of whether injunctive relief can be awarded against the President, noting that “[a] declaratory judgment should be sufficient, as no government official – including the President – is above the law, and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as has been declared.”

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