The US president may not block users on Twitter, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled on Tuesday.
In May 2018, a federal judge had already deemed Donald Trump’s blocking of detractors infringed on the First Amendment—freedom of speech—and was thus unconstitutional.
Since Trump uses his Twitter account for “governmental functions”—announcing public policy, conducting diplomacy, and firing government officials—it is and must remain a “public, interactive” forum, the Appeals Court judges agreed.
Moreover, because Trump’s account does not restrict any of the responses which his posts garner, the judges concluded the presidents blocked people for being critical—something his administration acknowledges.
The jurisprudence concerning political dialogue on digital platforms is swiftly-evolving.
In April 2017, the National Archives began preserving Trump’s post-inauguration tweets under the Presidential Records Act, which guarantees public ownership of his official communications.
Now, Democrat US lawmaker—and vocal Trump critic—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is also at risk of being sued for blocking former lawmaker Dov Hikind on Twitter.
How will this federal ruling square with tech companies’ own rules about which speech warrants exclusion?
And what could this signal about social media platforms’ accountability to the general public?
Should leaders get to block opponents on social media?