The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Federal Court of Appeal ruling that former President Donald Trump violated the First Amendment by blocking criticism on Twitter.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal appeals court ruling that former President Donald Trump violated the First Amendment by blocking critics from following his Twitter account.
The case had already lost practical impact given Trump’s election defeat and Twitter’s Jan.8 decision to permanently ban his @realDonaldTrump account for glorification of violence.
But the two sides to the case continued to argue over the fate of the appeal court’s decision. Before Trump stepped down, the Justice Department asked judges to erase the precedent, while those prosecuting him sought to keep it intact.
The appeals court said that a social media account managed by government officials can become a constitutionally protected “public forum” if used to conduct official business. The Supreme Court said the government cannot discriminate in a public forum based on the opinions of a speaker.
The case involved seven people stranded after criticizing Trump, meaning that when logged into the social media site, they couldn’t see, reply to, or retweet his tweets. These seven people have sued the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. Twitter Inc. was not involved in the case.
Trump created his Twitter account in March 2009 and brought it with him to the White House, where it has become one of his favorite means of communication. Trump used the account to announce new policies, fire Cabinet secretaries, and later make unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud.
Lawyers for the Department of Justice argued that the decision of the New York-based Second US Court of Appeals would leave officials powerless to prevent their social media pages from being overrun with harassment, trolls and speeches by hatred. Twitter users said government officials would still be able to block threats and obscenity and could take action such as limiting the number of responses a person can post within a specified time frame.
The case, which was renamed after the inauguration of President Joe Biden, is Biden v Knight First Amendment Institute, 20-197.