Trump Can’t Block Twitter Users, Federal Court Rules

Trump violated the First Amendment when he blocked Twitter users who disagreed with him.

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President Donald Trump cannot block Twitter users who disagree with him, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday. The court upheld a previous ruling that Trump’s online silencing of opposing viewpoints violated the First Amendment.

“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,” Judge Barrington D. Parker wrote in the unanimous decision.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University represented seven users who had been blocked by Trump for posting disapproving comments about the president in 2017. Trump unblocked those users while the case was pending appeal, according to the Washington Post.

The decision comes less than two weeks after Twitter announced that it would notify users when public officials’ tweets violated the company’s rules about abusive behavior—a measure that could potentially apply to Trump’s tweets. The president’s inability to block users marks a victory for online free speech advocates amid a conversation about the responsibility of public officials—and social media platforms—to moderate behavior online.

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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