Court rules that Trump can't block critics from seeing his Twitter feed


It’s the second time that US judges have ruled against President Trump’s social media use.

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The US Court of Appeals has ruled that Donald Trump is in violation of the US constitution by blocking people from seeing his official Twitter feed.

The decision confirmed the lower court's ruling that by blocking people from seeing and replying to his tweets, he is in defiance of the First Amendment.

US District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald - the first judge to sit before the case in 2018 - ruled that Trump blocking people based on their views constituted “viewpoint discrimination”.

It’s the latest movement from a lawsuit filed in 2017 on behalf of a group of Twitter users blocked by Trump.

Why can’t Trump block who he wants?

Trump is notoriously tweet-happy and has indicated that information disseminated through his account should be taken as official political government announcements.

A panel of three judges concluded in their ruling on Tuesday:

“The First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilises a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise-open dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees.”

Representatives for Trump argued that, among other things, the President’s account was run in a personal capacity - allowing him to block people who annoy or disagree with him.

The judges presiding over the most recent case did not agree. 

“We are not persuaded. We conclude that the evidence of the official nature of the account is overwhelming,” Judge Barrington D. Parker wrote. 

“We also conclude that once the president has chosen a platform and opened up its interactive space to millions of users and participants, he may not selectively exclude those whose views he disagrees with.” 

Could the same thing happen to ScoMo?

As 10Daily’s Josh Butler found out, our own leader, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is also fond of blocking people on social media.

However, because of the differences between Australian and US constitution, it’s unlikely that Morrison will face similar heat.

“The first and most obvious thing to say is that Australia does not have a bill of rights in the same way that the US does, so this principle doesn’t really apply to Scott Morrison,” Jean Burgess, director of QUT’s Digital Media Research Centre told The Feed.

Politicians seem to enjoy extraordinary leeway when it comes to violations of Twitter’s terms of service that would see ordinary users banned.

Twitter has faced backlash over the fact that some of the tweets coming from Trump’s official account could be considered a violation of their abuse policy - an action that would get a regular user suspended or banned.

In a move which was widely seen as an effort to accommodate Trump’s tweets, in December 2017 Twitter exempted military and government entities from its abuse policy.

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