In a unique case dealing with the use of social media by elected officials, a three judge federal appeals panel ruled on Tuesday that President Donald Trump has wrongly blocked people from viewing his posts on Twitter, simply because they may have expressed contrary opinions and views.
In a 29 page ruling, the judges from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court ruling against the President, arguing that Mr. Trump clearly uses Twitter 'to conduct official business and to interact with the public.'
The judges said, "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."
A huge decision from a unanimous three-judge panel of the Second Circuit—and, given the way that @realDonaldTrump uses Twitter, not a surprising one.— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) July 9, 2019
The far more interesting question is whether #SCOTUS will agree (assuming that the Solicitor General decides to appeal)... https://t.co/L0IAkHQa3R
TRUMP HAS TO UNBLOCK ME!!! https://t.co/ZyIHbGcwtu— Caroline Orr (@RVAwonk) July 9, 2019
In arguments, lawyers for the President maintained that his Twitter account - @realdonaldtrump - is a private one, and is not controlled by the government.
The judges did not agree.
"We conclude that the evidence of the official nature of the Account is overwhelming. We also conclude that once the President has chosen a platform and opened up its interactive space to millions of users and participants, he may not selectively exclude those whose views he disagrees with," the panel concluded.
The case was brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which sued on behalf of seven people blocked by Mr. Trump.
Twitter says President Trump has nearly 62 million followers on the social media platform which is his favorite outlet.
Two of the three judges on this panel were appointed by President George W. Bush, the third by President Barack Obama.