Trump’s Twitter tantrums and attacks have defined his presidency. Can he block his own constituents on Twitter?
The U.S. Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to review an appeals court decision earlier this year requiring President Trump to unblock critics on Twitter. Their appeal is on the grounds that the ruling “would deter holders of [the presidency] from using new technology to efficiently communicate to a broad public audience."
In reality, the president lost a 2018 lawsuit regarding his habit of blocking critics on Twitter. After the ruling, he agreed to unblock users, thus allowing them to view his Twitter content. Despite the court decision, he continues blocking users, including his own constituents.
Why it Matters:
First Amendment Violation
In 2018, a federal judge ruled that blocking users from viewing Trump's official Twitter account (@realDonaldTrump) constituted an infringement on Americans' right to free speech. Given Trump’s rampant use of social media, Twitter serves as a public forum to access and discuss news from the White House. As a public servant, Trump can't exclude his constituents from this information and an open online dialogue simply because they disagree with his political views.
Failure to Comply With the Supreme Court Ruling
Two years after the 2018 court decision, five of the seven plaintiffs' Twitter accounts remain blocked. The White House agreed to unblock Twitter accounts from the original lawsuit, as well as several others blocked for their contradictory point-of-view.
The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed a new lawsuit in July on behalf of these blocked individuals against Trump and his Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications, Daniel Scavino.
Lack of Regulation on Public Officials' Social Media Use
The Justice Department, who represents Trump in this matter, has argued that @realDonaldTrump is a private Twitter account since it was created in 2009. Such an argument reveals the need for clearer regulation to determine what users (constituents) elected and public officials are accountable to through their social media.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was criticized by conservatives in particular for blocking 20 Twitter users. However, none of these users represented constituents from New York’s 14th Congressional District, and AOC maintains that she blocked them due to harassment and threats of leaking fake nude photographs.