Trump Still Isn't Giving Up On Trying to Block Critics on Twitter

Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais (AP)

If you thought the president was going to give up fighting for his right to block critics on Twitter just because of a simple court ruling, and then an appeal process, which ended with a circuit court upholding that ruling, then think again.

Donald Trump’s team, represented by the Department of Justice, filed court papers Friday requesting a rehearing with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on the basis that its previous ruling was “fundamentally misconceived”, according to Reuters. Twitter declined to comment on this development.

Back in May, the three-judge panel unanimously decided to uphold a lower court’s 2018 decision that by blocking people on his @realDonaldTrump account, which has some 65 million followers, he violated their First Amendment rights. They agreed that this personal account has basically become an official platform at this point, you know since he uses the thing to announce transphobic policies, prove that he’s not joking about this whole buying Greenland nonsense, and cause international panic about the possibility of impending nuclear war.

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“[T]he 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,” wrote Circuit Judge Barrington Parker in the court’s ruling, per Reuters. In this crazy upside-down world we’ve been stuck in since 2016, Parker described the president’s Twitter account as “one of the White House’s main vehicles for conducting official business.”

In Friday’s court filing, Reuters reported, the DOJ argues that if this decision is ultimately upheld, “public officials who address matters relating to their public office on personal accounts will run the risk that every action taken on that account will be state action subject to constitutional scrutiny.”

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To which I say, in my verbose and eloquent opinion: Umm...yeah.

A politician using a personal account in a professional capacity should absolutely propel that account into possible federal review. And that’s not a partisan opinion: The filing also noted that two federal lawsuits have since sprung up accusing Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of blocking critics on her personal Twitter account too. According to the precedent this May ruling sets, her alleged actions could be found unconstitutional. To which, I again say: Umm....yeah.

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This whole question about the legal standing of Trump’s Twitter account started back in 2018 when the Knight First Amendment Institute and several users blocked by the president took the issue to court. You can see the burn that purportedly earned one plaintiff a block below.

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Though the Department of Justice originally claimed Trump wasn’t using this account in an official capacity, they later backpedaled and argued that while his tweets may be presidential, the blocking (which Slate confirmed is decided by the head honcho himself) is Trump’s personal business. The judges weren’t buying it, though, and Trump ultimately had to unblock all users involved in the suit.

But who knows, maybe the third time’s the charm and the same people who unanimously sided against the administration’s argument barely three months ago will have a change of heart. Crazier things have happened.

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[Reuters]

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About the author

Alyse Stanley

Nights and weekend reporter, Gizmodo.