This past May, Federal Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that President Trump was violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by blocking individuals from viewing his Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump. This was in response to a lawsuit filed by Knight Institute on behalf of seven individual Twitter users.
A few days after the ruling, President Trump went ahead and unblocked the seven individual Twitter accounts named in the lawsuit, but he still continues to block what appears to be hundreds (if not thousands) of other individual Twitter user accounts, including my own (@EdKrassen).
Hill Reporter has reached out to Senior Staff Attorney at Knight Institute, Katie Fallow, to get an update on this case, as well as her take on the fact that President Trump still continues to violate the First Amendment by blocking other users from viewing his account.
“We sent a letter to the government on June 28,” Fallow tells Hill Reporter. “It basically said ‘a lot of other people are still blocked, and all indications are that they have been blocked based on [their] viewpoint.’ and to avoid any further potential litigation, [we asked] ‘would you unblock the other individuals?'”
Fallow tells us that the government (Jennifer Utrecht and Scott McIntosh of the U.S. Department of Justice) has confirmed the receipt of the letter, but have yet to issue a response. Meanwhile, the DOJ is appealing Judge Buchwald’s ruling.
“They are appealing the decision,” Fallow told us. “They have appealed it to the 2nd Circuit, and their brief is on August 7. Then we can respond.”
If the 2nd Circuit of Appeals upholds Buchwald’s decision, which seems to be the most likely scenario, then it would set a precedent on how official social media accounts of U.S. Presidents and other government officials are viewed. This would also seemingly confirm that, based on the ruling, Trump would continue to be in violation of the First Amendment by blocking almost anyone on Twitter. This, however, might not be enough to force the President to unblock all individuals currently on his “block list”.
“The principle covers everyone,” Fallow explained. “But you can’t go into court and say ‘they are in contempt’, because the order only applies to the parties in the litigation, but certainly we would say that, ‘to the extent that they are still blocking people, they are acting unconstitutionally — they are violating the First Amendment.’”
So the saga continues, but it may not be much longer until Trump is asked by a federal judge to unblock everyone. We must not forget that nobody is above the rule of law. That includes the President of the United States of America.