Trump Should Be Allowed to Block Twitter Users, Justice Department Argues

The president violated the First Amendment, a lower court found last year, by shutting down users’ access to a public forum

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The Justice Department, on behalf of the Trump administration, asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to review a decision made by a lower court last year that said the president wasn’t allowed to block users from viewing his personal account.

Last July, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York ruled President Trump cannot block users from reading or replying to his tweets because he doesn’t like what they say. The First Amendment, the court ruled, prohibits the president from users because he uses his account to discuss government policy. By blocking users, the court said, the president was essentially shutting down their access to a public forum where they can talk about his decisions. The lawsuit was filed by the Knight Institute after the president blocked seven users who had criticized him in 2017.

Thursday’s petition, filed by Justice Department attorneys, disagreed that Trump’s account should be viewed as a public forum, saying his ability to block users stemmed from Twitter, not because he is president. The Justice Department also argued the lower court failed to recognize the president uses his personal account to talk about a wide range of topics, not just politics. By taking away his ability to block users, the courts have blurred the line between his role as a government official and his personal conduct.

“The result of the court of appeals’ novel ruling will be to jeopardize the ability of public officials – from the president of the United States to a village councilperson – to insulate their social-media accounts from harassment, trolling or hate speech without invasive judicial oversight,” the petition said. “As applied to the president in particular, this [Supreme] Court – not a lower federal court – should decide where to draw the line between the president’s personal decisions and official conduct.”

In a statemet to The Hill, Knight Institute Executive Director Jameel Jaffer said, “This case stands for a principle that is fundamental to our democracy and basically synonymous with the First Amendment: government officials can’t exclude people from public forums simply because they disagree with their political views.”

The Knight Insitute did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

If the lower court’s ruling stands, the petition added, it would “deter” politicians “from using new technology to efficiently communicate” to the public moving forward.

The petition comes as the president and Twitter are already at odds. Twitter recently started adding fact check notifications and warning labels to the president’s tweets — a move President Trump has voiced his displeasure with.

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