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Judge: President violating 1st Amendment

Judge: President violating 1st Amendment

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald reasoned in her opinion that Twitter is a designated public forum, so blocking users based on their political speech "constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment".

Naomi Reice Buchwald of the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of NY ruled that Twitter serves as a "designated public forum" and is protected under the plaintiffs' First Amendment, which is the aspect of U.S. Constitution that deals with free speech.

"We thought it was a very important precedent to establish that the accounts of public officials on social media do operate as public forums where people's First Amendment rights are protected, which enables them to contribute to the dialogue about policy from the local level up to the national level and prevents public officials, effectively, from creating echo chambers where you block out dissent", Knight Institute staff attorney Carrie DeCell said. "The answer to both questions is no", she begins her 75-page judgment. She said she assumed Trump's social media director Dan Scavino would unblock the users in light of her decision.

Knight Institute v. Trump - was brought to Buchwald's bench by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University last July.

Buchwald said that their inability to reply to Trump's tweets after being blocked amounted to a violation of their First Amendment rights.

"In sum, we conclude that the interactive space associated with each of the President's tweets is not government speech and is properly analyzed under the Supreme Court's forum precedents", the judge states.

Trump is free to ignore critical comments, the judge said, or to bring greater attention to ones he likes.

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The Associated Press's Mary Clare Jalonick and Jonathan Lemire report that President Trump's use of the term "spygate" to describe his latest attempt to discredit Robert Mueller's investigation is part of "a newly invigorated strategy embraced by his Republican colleagues to raise suspicions about the probe that has dogged his presidency since the start".

Buchwald said "we must assume" Trump and the White House's social media director, Daniel Scavino, who helps run the account, "will remedy the blocking we have held to be unconstitutional", and suggested the pair mute the president's critics instead. "If all goes well, Hollywood will immortalize him as an evildoer who got his comeuppance". She said the First Amendment protects people even from trivial harm.

However, the Federal District Court for the Southern District of NY found that this was not the case.

And while some have argued that anyone blocked by Trump can see his tweets by just logging out, that doesn't necessarily give the whole picture.

It is unclear if Trump would unblock those he had blocked and the judge did not explicitly rule on that.

If Twitter is a public forum where users have First Amendment rights, that could make Twitter bans unconstitutional as well.

Citing school uniforms as an example of how institutions deter students from wearing provocative or political clothing, Mitchell added that a ruling made in a district court does not set a legal precedent.