A U.S. federal appeals court has ruled President Donald Trump cannot silence critics on his Twitter account, maintaining that blocking them violates the Constitution’s right to free speech.
The 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled in a 3-0 decision Tuesday the First Amendment prohibits Trump from blocking critics from his account, a public platform.
On behalf of the three-judge panel, Circuit Judge Barrington Parker wrote “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.”
Trump has used his Twitter account, which has more than 60-million followers, to promote his agenda and to attack critics.
The court ruled on a lawsuit filed by Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute on behalf of seven people who were blocked by Trump after criticizing his policies.
Institute director Jameel Jaffer said the ruling “will ensure that people aren’t excluded from these forums simply because of their viewpoints” and added “It will help ensure the integrity and vitality of digital spaces that are increasingly important to our democracy.”
Justice Department spokesman Kelly Laco said the agency is “disappointed with the ruling and is “exploring possible next steps.” He reiterated the administrations’ argument that “Trump’s decision to block users from his personal Twitter account does not violate the First Amendment.”
The decision upheld a May 2018 ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The U.S. Justice Department said the ruling was “fundamentally misconceived,” arguing Trump used the account in a personal capacity to express his views, and not as a forum for public discussion.
Twitter did not immediately comment on the ruling.
Among those who were blocked from Trump’s account were author Stephen King and model Chrissy Teigen.