Appeals court rules Trump can’t block Twitter critics - GulfToday

Appeals court rules Trump can’t block Twitter critics


Donald Trump. File

A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that President Donald Trump did not have the right to block critics on his Twitter account.

A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals said any attempt by the president to block critics responding to his tweets amounted to “unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination,” the Efe news reported.

The appeals court, which is based in New York City, upheld a lower court ruling in the case of Knight First Amendment Institute v. Trump that the President’s Twitter account constituted a “public forum.”

The appeals court said its ruling was based on the principles in the US Constitution’s First Amendment, which protects freedom of expression.

“We do conclude, however, that the First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilises 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 decision.

The appeals panel said that the government and its officials had to allow differing points of view to be expressed.

“The public presentation of the Account and the webpage associated with it bear all the trappings of an official, state-run account,” Parker said.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at New York’s Columbia University filed a lawsuit in July 2017 against the President on behalf of seven Twitter users, alleging that he did not have the right to block individuals who posted critical comments in response to his tweets.

The plaintiffs argued that Trump used his personal Twitter account - @realDonaldTrump - to disseminate official government information, requiring him to provide access to everyone to the comment threads.

“Public officials’ social media accounts are now among the most significant forums for discussion of government policy,” Knight First Amendment Institute Executive Director Jameel Jaffer said.

“This decision will ensure that people aren’t excluded from these forums simply because of their viewpoints, and that public officials aren’t insulated from their constituents’ criticism. The decision will help ensure the integrity and vitality of digital spaces that are increasingly important to our democracy,” Jaffer said.

Trump has nearly 62 million Twitter followers and uses the social media platform regularly to announce new policies and weigh in on issues, providing fodder for the daily news cycle and receiving thousands of comments.

The President’s attorneys had argued that the Twitter account was personal and not an official government account.

Trump’s administration threatened he would veto a massive defence bill being considered by the House of Representatives, saying it provides less money than he wants for the military and disagreeing with some of its policy provisions.

The version of the National Defense Authorisation Act, or NDAA, up for a vote in the Democratic-led House sets $733 billion in military spending, $17 billion less than Trump’s fiscal-year 2020 budget request.

The Republican-led Senate last month passed its version of the measure, authorising $750 billion for the Pentagon. Once the House passes its bill, the two chambers must come up with a compromise bill, which must pass both before being sent to the White House for Trump to sign into law or veto.

The administration objected as well to provisions in the House bill seeking to stop Trump from spending billions of dollars to build a wall on the US border with Mexico, after he declared a national emergency in order to go ahead with construction without Congress’ approval.

It also opposed the bill’s proposed imposition of stricter limits on the deployment of US troops to work along the border and the curtailing of Trump’s ability to transfer money from one project to another without consulting Congress.

Trump’s promise to build a border wall was a feature of his 2016 presidential campaign, and has been a theme of his bid for re-election in 2020.

The administration also objected to a range of provisions including some related to nuclear weapons, Trump’s plan for a “Space Force” and restrictions on detentions at the military prison at the Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, including a proposed ban on additional transfers to the prison in Cuba.


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