Since the advent of television in the mid-20th century, American presidents have relied primarily on cameras to communicate directly with the American people. But Twitter, and President Donald Trump’s use of it in particular, changed all that.
It would have been astonishing had Eisenhower had the ability to block individual citizens from seeing his face and hearing his messages during live TV broadcasts. But that’s exactly the kind of power that Trump wields today when he chooses to block people from reading his tweets.
A First Amendment lawsuit arguing that blocking people on Twitter violates their constitutional rights may be close to a resolution. A federal judge heard a case against Trump for banning followers and suggested a settlement on Thursday: The president should simply mute Twitter followers that annoy him, rather than block them entirely.
The lawsuit was brought in July by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and seven users who had been blocked by the president after criticizing him.
The government claims that @realDonaldTrump is actually the president’s “personal” Twitter account, not in any way affiliated with his role as leader of the country—frankly a hilarious argument given that Trump uses the account primarily as a medium for berating his political enemies and to deride the media over its presidential coverage.
According to the Associated Press, Manhattan federal Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald told the attorneys that resisting the settlement could result in the establishment of new law they might regret.
Buchwald is expected to rule soon if the parties don’t agree to the “just mute them” plan.