A federal judge may have just ruined Donald Trump‘s weekend and perhaps his future online enjoyment after she found that the president may be violating the U.S. Constitution with one specific activity on Twitter.
During a hearing in Manhattan court, U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald questioned U.S. Department of Justice attorney Michael Baer (representing Trump) if allowing the president to ban users from accessing the “@realDonaldTrump” Twitter account violates their First Amendment right to exercise free speech freely.
She wanted to know if Twitter was really any different from a public town hall, where government officials are prohibited to cut the microphone of constituents who hold views different from their own.
“Once it is a public forum, you can’t shut somebody up because you don’t like what they’re saying,” Buchwald said.
However, Baer argued that the town hall wasn’t an accurate analogy. He reasoned that blocking Twitter users was like the president choosing to walk away from a person at a public event.
“The president has an associational interest in deciding who he’s going to spend his time with in that setting,” he said.
Toward the end of the hearing, Buchwald suggested that the lawsuit could be settled with a reasonable compromise if Trump elects to mute instead of block users in the future. Lawyers on both sides agreed that her idea had merit. If Trump chooses to mute a user, he doesn’t see the user’s tweets. However, the user would still be able to see and reply to the Trump’s tweets.
The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and several Twitter users are behind the lawsuit. Buchwald is currently weighing motions from both sides. The plaintiffs claim that the president’s account is legally a public forum and that Trump can’t block Twiter users just because they are critical of his tweets.
Katherine Fallow, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the judge the record “shows unambiguously that the president operates his account in an official capacity.”
While Baer did acknowledge that the president does sometimes use his Twitter account to announce public policy, he said that blocking users did not constitute an official action of his office. However, Baer may have contradicted himself by arguing that the court wasn’t within its authority to order the president to unblock users because Trump’s position is as head of a different branch of the government.
Here’s a sample of the list of everyone Trump has blocked since taking office via Wired.
- STEPHEN KING
- MARINA SIRTIS
- BESS KALB
- AJ JOSHI
- HOLLY O’REILLY
…and many more.
This case could be a landmark decision to determine the extent to which public officials are held accountable to the public they serve. If Trump does have to unblock users, just imagine the epic levels of trollery he’ll be forced to endure!
Featured image via YouTube
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