If President Trump wants to continue using his Twitter account as a public forum, he must adhere to the First Amendment, which means no blocking other Twitter users, according to a court ruling Wednesday.
U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that Twitter serves as a “designated public forum” and is protected under the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights. Therefore, the judge added, their “exclusion” from the platform constitutes a breach of those rights.
The court rejected the argument from Trump’s lawyers that the president’s own First Amendment rights would be abridged if he was not allowed to block users.
In addition to the president, defendants named in the lawsuit include former White House communications director Hope Hicks, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and social media director Dan Scavino—the man thought to be behind much of Trump’s unusual social media behavior. However, Judge Buchwald excused Hicks and Sanders as defendants.
The Justice Department defended Trump’s Twitter activity, contending that muting is within the president’s “associational freedoms.” He may be president, the DOJ argued, but Trump still maintains a right to decide who he spends time with on the social media platform. A Justice Department spokeswoman said “We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision and are considering our next steps.”