Trump can't block Twitter users over political disagreements, court rules

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President Trump cannot block access to his Twitter account for users who criticize or disagree with his views, a U.S. federal appeals court affirmed on Tuesday.

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The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ unanimous decision stems from a lawsuit filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University on behalf of seven people who Trump blocked on Twitter after they criticized his administration’s policies. The appeals court upheld a May 2018 ruling by a lower court judge who determined that the president’s action violated the First Amendment.

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“The First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes 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,” Circuit Judge Barrington Parker wrote.

Trump is an active Twitter user with nearly 62 million followers on his personal account. The appeals court rejected an assertion from Trump's attorneys that his account is private, noting that it is a source of information that is in the public interest and must be kept open to all users.

Roughly 75 users have been unblocked since the court’s ruling, a staff attorney for the Knight First Amendment Institute told The Associated Press.

The Department of Justice expressed disappointment with the appeals court’s decision.

“We are disappointed with the court’s decision and are exploring possible next steps. As we argued, President Trump’s decision to block users from his personal twitter account does not violate the First Amendment,” DOJ spokesperson Kelly Laco said in a statement.

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Twitter declined comment.

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