Columbia's Knight Institute wins First Amendment lawsuit against Trump

President Donald Trump

Welcome to the public arena. Jabin Botsford Getty Images

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in a Manhattan court ruled on Thursday morning (AEST) that Mr Trump may not legally block Twitter users because doing so violates their rights under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of NY, said President Trump's Twitter account is a public forum and blocking people who reply to his tweets with differing opinions constitutes viewpoint discrimination, which violates the First Amendment.

Read the full opinion here.

"In light of social media's importance to modern life, President Trump's practice of blocking individual users robs them of a singularly valuable opportunity to make their speech heard", said the brief filed by the Georgetown University Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection.

She stopped short of directly ordering Mr Trump to unblock users, saying it was not necessary to enter a "legal thicket" involving courts' power over the President. "N$3 o government official - including the President - is above the law", she wrote, "and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as has been declared". Plaintiffs include institutions such as Knight center of Columbia University, and individuals such as Philip Cohen, a professor of sociology at University of Maryland, blocked in June 2017 after answering a message from President With a text that said: "Corrupt, incompetent, authoritarian".

A USA judge in NY on Wednesday ruled that President Donald Trump may not legally block Twitter users from his account on the social media platform based on their political views.

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Considering Trump's position as a public official, a federal judge on Thursday ruled that he can not legally block his followers on Twitter based on their political views.

The Knight Institute sued Trump last spring on behalf of seven Trump critics who had been blocked on Twitter, arguing that Trump's use of Twitter to announce policy and engage with the public constituted a public forum.

On Wednesday the judge agreed with their argument that the social media platform qualifies as a "designated public forum" granted to all USA citizens. For a public forum to exist, the government has to own or control it, he said, but in this case, Twitter also controls Trump's account.

"As to the muting, I think that is an option", Fallow said at the time.

The White House did not immediately have a comment on the ruling.

Twitter has always been dogged by questions about how far its users' right to speech may extend.

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