A federal judge in NY ruled Wednesday that President Trump may not block users from following his Twitter account because the social media platform is a "public forum" protected by the First Amendment.
U.S. District Court Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove wrote that public officials "can choose whom to listen to on those platforms without offending the First Amendment".
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and former communications director Hope Hicks are dismissed as defendants in the suit, but social media director Daniel Scavino remains a defendant because he routinely accesses Trump's Twitter account.
One of the users blocked by Trump, according to the letter, was Holly O'Reilly, whose @AynRandPaulRand account was blocked in May 2017 after posting a GIF of Pope Francis glancing at Trump with a troubled expression, above which she wrote, "This is pretty much how the whole world sees you".
The court also examined the evidence and found that despite the Executive's arguments that his Twitter accounts are, for various reasons, in part private and not subject to rules limiting government spaces, the president's Twitter is definitively a public forum, meeting the criteria set out some time back by the Supreme Court.
It's unclear if Mr Trump will now unblock his critics, but the judge hinted the president could face legal action if he did not comply with the ruling.
Instead, she writes, "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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The Department of Justice said in a statement that it "respectfully" disagrees with the ruling and is considering how to proceed.
"Because of the way the President and his aides use the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account, the account is a public forum under the First Amendment", the lawsuit states. Trump was engaging in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination by blocking critics in a "public forum", the court ruled. Other well-known people blocked from his account include author Stephen King, actor Rosie O'Donnell and model and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen.
Eugene Volokh, a University of California Los Angeles School of Law professor who specializes in First Amendment issues, said the decision's effect would reach beyond Trump.
Enlarge / These Twitter users are participating in a constitutionally protected public forum, a federal judge has ruled.
Her analysis highlights the conversational nature of Twitter as a platform, and notes that Trump would have been better off muting the users whose opinions he'd rather not read because blocking them restricts their ability to speak by limiting their ability to reply to his tweets. The president has more than 52 million followers on Twitter.
Crucially, she found that President Trump's stature as the, um, President, did not qualify for any sort of exemption.
The bigger impact here, however, is that this ruling applies to all public officials in the US.
Today, the federal district court judge in that case agreed.