President Donald Trump is escalating his feud with social media companies, signing an executive order challenging their liability protections. The move comes after Twitter applied fact-check labels on Trump’s tweets about mail-in ballots. (May 29)
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is taking his effort to block his critics on Twitter to the Supreme Court.
The Justice Department on Thursday asked the high court to review a federal appeals court ruling that found the president’s practice of blocking critics violates the First Amendment.
Trump, who now has more than 85 million Twitter followers, prompted the court battle in 2017 by blocking some of the social media company’s users from following his Twitter account. Seven of them went to court, charging that he was seeking to “suppress dissent.”
A federal district court ruled against the president in 2018, and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit followed suit. The full appeals court then refused to rehear the case.
Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall told the justices Thursday that Trump’s account was created in 2009, when he was a private citizen and has continued to use it for both personal and official pronouncements.
“By ignoring the critical distinction between the president’s (sometimes) official statements on Twitter and his always personal decision to block respondents from his own account, the opinion blurs the line between state action and private conduct,” Wall said in asking the Supreme Court to hear the case.
“The result of the court of appeals’ novel ruling will be to jeopardize the ability of public officials – from the president of the United States to a village councilperson – to insulate their social-media accounts from harassment, trolling, or hate speech without invasive judicial oversight.”
After the 2018 district court ruling, the White House unblocked the seven individuals who brought the case along with others blocked because of their viewpoints. But it did not unblock those who could not specify the tweet that caused Trump to block them or those blocked before he became president.
“This case stands for a principle that is fundamental to our democracy and basically synonymous with the First Amendment: government officials can’t exclude people from public forums simply because they disagree with their political views,” said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which represents the plaintiffs.
The Supreme Court likely will decide this fall whether to hear the case next year.
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