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Donald Trump unblocks more Twitter users following federal court ruling

August 29, 2018

Twitter users previously blocked by President Trump reported being able to interact with his account on Tuesday on the heels of a federal court judge ruling in favor of seven similarly situated social media users who sued the president for violating their constitutionally protected freedom of speech.

At least 20 users previously barred from engaging with the president’s Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, said they were no longer blocked as of Tuesday, Reuters first reported.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, ruled in May that Mr. Trump’s activity on Twitter effectively made his account a “public forum” as designated by the Supreme Court, ordering that blocking users “based on their political speech constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment.”

All seven plaintiffs represented in the lawsuit were unblocked by the president in June, and earlier this month their attorneys sent the Department of Justice a partial list of 41 other users still barred from engaging with Mr. Trump on Twitter, including each of the 20 accounts identified by Reuters.

“Score one for the First Amendment!” said Katie Fallow, a senior staff attorney for the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, a free speech group that represented the plaintiffs in the case. “Hope @realDonaldTrump takes steps to unblock all people he’s blocked based on viewpoint,” she tweeted Tuesday.

The White House did not immediately comment on recently unblocked Twitter users. The Trump administration previously described Judge Burchwald’s order as “fundamentally misconceived” and is currently challenging her ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Each of the seven plaintiffs in the lawsuit being appealed were blocked by Mr. Trump after publicly criticizing the president on Twitter, prompting Knight to file suit on their behalf last July in Manhattan federal court.

“This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, ‘block’ a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the president of the United States. The answer to both questions is no,” Judge Buchwald wrote in her 75-page ruling.

Appealing the judge’s order, attorneys for the Justice Department argued in June that the president’s Twitter account “belongs to Donald Trump in his personal capacity and is subject to his personal control, not the control of the government.”

“We’ll continue to work with the DOJ to ensure the White House restores access to the @realDonaldTrump account to all individuals who were blocked on the basis of their viewpoints. We also look forward to defending the district court’s ruling in the appeals court,” Knight tweeted Wednesday.

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