Here’s some good news for President Trump’s most vocal Twitter critics: A federal judge in New York has ruled that when Trump blocks Twitter users with opposing political viewpoints, it is a violation of the First Amendment—specifically, their right to free speech.
The original lawsuit, brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute and a group of Twitter users, posited that each of Trump’s tweets created a public forum, an argument the judge agreed with. The judgment—which also named the White House social media director, Dan Scavino—distinguished between muting and blocking users that Trump did not want to engage with, which the president’s lawyers had tried to argue were equivalent and “equally constitutional” actions.
“The audience for a reply extends more broadly than the sender of the tweet being replied to, and blocking restricts the ability of a blocked user to speak to that audience,” the judge wrote. “While the right to speak and the right to be heard may be functionally identical if the speech is directed at only one listener, they are not when there is more than one.”
The ruling is a bit surprising, especially given that the Twitter account in question is Trump’s personal one, @realDonaldTrump. That said, it is a declaratory judgment, which means it won’t be enforced—so Trump will likely keep doing as he pleases. “Because no government official is above the law and because all government officials are presumed to follow the law once the judiciary has said what the law is, we must assume that the President and Scavino will remedy the blocking we have held to be unconstitutional,” the judge wrote.
I’m not sure Trump will see it that way.