"The viewpoint-based exclusion of the individual plaintiffs from that designated public forum is proscribed by the First Amendment and can not be justified by the President's personal First Amendment interests", the judge said.
Manhattan: US President Donald Trump can't block critics from following his Twitter account, a federal judge ruled in a decision that opens his favourite communication forum to uncensored commentary from political opponents. The Justice Department, which defended Mr. Trump in the case, said it disagreed with the decision and was considering its next steps.
"Muting preserves the muted account's ability to reply to a tweet sent by the muting account, blocking precludes the blocked user from "seeing or replying to the blocking user's tweets" entirely", she said.
Katie Fallow, a staff attorney at Knight who represented the plaintiffs, said the ruling "should guide all of the public officials who are communicating with their constituents through social media".
She added, "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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It wasn't a complete win for Knight First Amendment Institute and the seven others who brought the case to court.
Free speech advocates called U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald's ruling groundbreaking, saying it will expand constitutional protections deep into the realm of social media. But President Trump maintains two accounts: his official one, @POTUS, and his personal, @realDonaldTrump. "But the people's First Amendment rights to see these messages and respond to them must be respected". Blocking users on the basis of political speech is a violation of their free-speech rights, the court said. "Sometimes I will see dozens of people RTing an unavailable tweet and saying, 'This is the most disgusting thing I've ever read.' And I'm like, 'Ah jeez I wonder what that's all about.' The guy literally provokes worldwide leaders with his Twitter account and I'm out of the loop on it". The plaintiffs argued that Trump's twitter feed amounted to a virtual town hall, and that blocking users from seeing his tweets violated their First Amendment rights. "If that's the case, the government doesn't get to pick and choose who is allowed in".
By this the judge means that while the court would be legally in the clear if it issued an official order binding the relevant actors in the Executive, but that there's no reason to do so. The Knight Institute also sued a local Virginia government after representative Phyllis Randall blocked a consistent, Brian Davison, on Facebook.
Trump might have had a better argument for blocking his critics on Twitter, but he's the one who made a decision to turn his personal account into an official arm of the presidency.