A federal appeals court is standing by its ruling that President Donald Trump can’t block Twitter users from viewing his social media account.
A majority of judges on the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday made the decision, reiterating a previous ruling from three judges on the court in July.
On Monday, the appellate court underlined how the Twitter account @realDonaldTrump is used for the President’s official communications. Blocking people on Twitter, the court found, violates the First Amendment because it excludes people from interacting with the President in a public forum, according to a statement from a judge today and previous court opinions.
Judge Barrington Parker, a George W. Bush appointee to the appellate court, wrote on Monday that the case was unusual only because it involves Twitter. He pointed to Trump’s tweets this year about foreign adversaries and the White House’s responses to them.
Parker specifically highlighted a Trump tweet from January that said, “These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back.”
“These tweets are published by a public official clothed with the authority of the state using social media as a tool of governance and as an official channel of communication on an interactive public platform,” the judge wrote. “Excluding people from an otherwise public forum such as this by blocking those who express views critical of a public official is, we concluded, unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.”
Parker also pointed to a Trump tweet in October 2019: “As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!),” the President wrote.
Parker said he believed that “under no rational view can tweets such as these be considered ‘personal.’” Parker had also written the court’s opinion against Trump in the case last year.
The Justice Department, which represents Trump in this case, asked in August for the full appeals court to rehear the case, and an active judge on the court asked to poll his or her colleagues on whether they should do so, the court said on Monday. The DOJ maintained that Trump’s Twitter account “belongs” to him personally.
A majority of the 2nd Circuit’s judges voted for the previous ruling to stand. Two judges on the court – both of whom Trump appointed – disagreed. Two judges did not vote, according to the court record.
The challenge to Trump’s unprecedented use of Twitter in office came from seven individuals he blocked, as well as the Knight First Amendment Institute, which argued that the President’s personal account is an extension of his office.
“The ruling is an important affirmation of core First Amendment principles as applied to new communications technology.” Jameel Jaffer, the Knight Institute’s Executive Director, who argued the case before the 2nd Circuit, said in a statement on Monday.