A federal district court judge has officially ruled that President Donald Trump cannot legally block people on Twitter.
The president’s avid use of Twitter is a part of his unconventional brand. Many of his followers love that he “tells it like it is” directly through the social media platform rather than using traditional means of communication.
However, the president often gets as embroiled in controversy and arguments as anyone else on Twitter, and occasionally he will block a user that bothers him. According to a report by The Hill, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled on Wednesday that that is no longer allowed.
Buchwald, a U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York, ruled that President Trump’s Twitter feed is a public forum. She decided that when the president blocks people with different opinions from his, he is in violation of the First Amendment.
This decision is a result of a lawsuit brought by the Knight Foundation. The group aims to foster informed and engaged communities, and it sued on behalf of seven people who the president has blocked.
The president’s argument in the case was that his own personal First Amendment rights superseded those of the people he was blocking, therefore giving him every right to tune them out online. However, Judge Buchwald wrote a 75-page long opinion in which she suggested the president should have simply ignored the offending users.
“No First Amendment harm arises when a government’s ‘challenged conduct’ is simply to ignore the [speaker], as the Supreme Court has affirmed ‘that it is free to do,’” she wrote.
“Stated otherwise, ‘a person’s right to speak is not infringed when government simply ignores that person while listening to others,’ or when the government ‘amplifies’ the voice of one speaker over those of others,” she added.
On Twitter, being blocked by the president has become something of a badge of honor among his political opponents. Many users even include the hashtag “Blocked By Trump” in their bios and their posts.
The option to block on Twitter is meant to allow users to “control how you interact with other accounts on Twitter,” according to Twitter. “This feature helps users in restricting specific accounts from contacting them, seeing their Tweets, and following them.”
Presumably, most use blocking as a method to distance themselves from harassment, which is rampant on the website. However, in the wake of Judge Buchwald’s decision, many have begun re-posting the tweets that got them blocked by the president in the first place, in an effort to corroborate the judge’s analysis.
Unblock me @realDonaldTrump.
— nicki 🤓 (@nickiknowsnada) May 23, 2018