U.S. federal court says 'NO' to President Donald Trump

25 May, 2018, 11:25 | Author: Cassandra Gardner
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Manhattan: US President Donald Trump can't block critics from following his Twitter account, a federal judge ruled in a decision that opens his favourite communication forum to uncensored commentary from political opponents.

New York Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that it's unconstitutional for the head of state to block Twitter users from his account simply because he doesn't agree with them, especially because Trump is a public figure who uses his personal account for political purposes.

A U.S. 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.

Judge Buchwald said that the answer to both the questions was no.

The case was brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and seven Twitter users whose accounts had been blocked. But if Trump muted an account, he would not see that user's tweets but the user could still see and respond to his. Trump uses the Twitter account for policy and diplomatic announcements as well as to lash out at the media and special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

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In other words, Trump can continue to tweet unhindered, regardless of whatever happens in comment threads to previous tweets.

In the past week, he has repeatedly claimed in multiple tweets that the Justice Department put a "spy" inside his presidential campaign to frame him for "crimes he didn't commit" amid mounting questions over his campaign's possible collusion with Russian Federation.

The judge noted that another defendant, Daniel Scavino - the White House's social media director and an assistant to the president - can unblock those followers without the president needing to do it himself. The feature prevents selected accounts from appearing in a user's Twitter mentions - effectively blocking them from Trump's view.

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.

Kerri Kupec, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, said in an email: "We respectfully disagree with the court's decision and are considering our next steps".

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Trump is free to ignore critical comments, the judge said, or to bring greater attention to ones he likes. The Trump administration has not decided yet whether Trump will unblock his critics on Twitter as directed by Buchwald or whether it will appeal the ruling, the New York Times reported.

And while some have argued that anyone blocked by Trump can see his tweets by just logging out, that doesn't necessarily give the whole picture.

The judge acknowledged that even though the president has certain free speech rights, he can not violate the rights of other Twitter users.

Lawyers for the president argued Trump's own First Amendment rights allowed him to block people with whom he did not wish to interact.

The Knight Institute hopes that the ruling against Trump will set a precedent for other public officials across the country.

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