After the court has ruled that the personal and official social media accounts of politicians and public forums, essentially preventing them from blocking their critics from any social media platform, Donald Trump has sent the Justice Department to have the ruling overturned.
The Justice Department filed a court request on Trump’s behalf challenging the ruling of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York to be reheard saying that the three-judge panel’s unanimous decision was “fundamentally misconceived.”
“Public officials who address matters relating to their public office on personal accounts will run the risk that every action taken on that account will be state action subject to constitutional scrutiny,” according to the filing.
In July, all three judges who reviewed the ruling in the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that Trump is violating the First Amendment by blocking dissidents and critics in social networks. In the earlier ruling, Circuit Judge Barrington Parker noted that @RealDonaldTrump is “one of the White House’s main vehicles” to announce official statements and political activities. The judge said that the Twitter accounts should be subjected to scrutiny because the majority of the President’s tweets are official state policies.
In the appellate court ruling, Circuit Judge Barrington Parker wrote, “the First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise-open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees.”
“The government is not permitted to ‘amplify’ favored speech by banning or burdening viewpoints with which it disagrees,” the appeals court said.
For example, last Friday, President Donald Trump “hereby ordered” American companies to find manufacturing alternatives from Chinese production amid the escalating trade war between China and the United States. He announced this seemingly official “order” in his personal Twitter account, making it an official state announcement.
The judge further argues that if Trump is to be allowed to block critics on his Twitter accounts, every politician will be compelled to shift to their personal social networking accounts in order to run away from public scrutiny and criticisms.
However, the Justice Department seems to agree with this, on a different tone, however. According to the filing, if the ruling is upheld, all politicians’ posts in their personal accounts will be subjected to constitutional scrutiny.
“Public officials who address matters relating to their public office on personal accounts will run the risk that every action taken on that account will be state action subject to constitutional scrutiny,” the filing reads.
But then again, Parker defended the decision saying that Trump’s Twitter account is tantamount to an official announcement platform that bears “all the trappings of an official, state-run account” and is “one of the White House’s main vehicles for conducting official business.”
“The irony in all of this is that we write at a time in the history of this nation when the conduct of our government and its officials is subject to wide-open, robust debate,” Circuit Judge Barrington D. Parker wrote on behalf of a three-judge panel.
The case in question originated back in 2017 when Knight First Amendment Institute sued on behalf of seven Twitter users who Trump had blocked. The organization argued that Trump’s Twitter account, which has more than 63 million followers, is a “public forum.” The organization contends that since it has become a public forum, blocking citizens from the Twitter account will not only enable them from responding to the claims Trump is making but also to read the latest state concerns that the President decides to announce using Twitter as the vehicle of the announcement.
Furthermore, the organization, through the suit, claims that blocking people from the President’s Twitter account will prevent others from seeing alternative opinions about a state policy or any form of dissent, thus creating an “echo chamber” where free speech is essentially curtailed.
The ruling bears similarities with an earlier ruling in January categorizing official Facebook pages of politicians as “public forums.” Critics have sued Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez arguing that they, too, shouldn’t be blocked on Twitter merely based on disagreements.
The Justice Department filing said the court’s “mistaken First Amendment reasoning is being applied not just to any public official, but to the President of United States.”