A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the “interactive space” where people respond to President Donald Trump’s tweets is a “designated public forum” covered by the First Amendment. As such, the White House cannot block users based on the viewpoints they express in their responses to Trump.
The suit was brought by seven individuals whose tweets got them blocked along with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.
U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald in New York rejected the administration’s arguments that the president, in blocking the users, was simply exercising the right a private individual might have, to choose “not to engage” with the individuals who brought the lawsuit. The audience for a reply on Trump’s account isn’t just Trump, she ruled, rejecting the administration’s argument. It’s the entire audience of millions who were deprived of the ability to read the replies the plaintiffs in the case posted.
“In sum,” she wrote, “we conclude that the blocking of the individual plaintiffs as a result of the political views they have expressed is impermissible under the First Amendment.”
So who were these plaintiffs and what was it they tweeted that got them blocked? Here’s the information, drawn from a document in the case.
On June 6, 2017, the president shot out the following from his account: “Sorry folks, but if I would have relied on the Fake News of CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS washpost or nytimes, I would have had ZERO chance winning WH.”
Rebecca Buckwalter, a Washington, D.C., writer and political consultant, shot back: “To be fair you didn’t win the WH: Russia won it for you.”
She was blocked.
On the same day, Trump tweeted: “#ICYMI In Case You Missed It Announcement of Air Traffic Control Initiative… Watch”, and linked to the administration’s announcement regarding air control.
Philip Cohen, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, replied with an image of the president scrawled over with text: “Corrupt Incompetent Authoritarian. And then there are the policies. Resist.”
He was blocked.
On May 28, 2017, the world was reeling from the news of a terrorist attack in Manchester, England. The president responded on Twitter: “British Prime Minister May was very angry that the info the U.K. gave to the U.S. about Manchester was leaked. Gave me full details!”
Holly Figueroa, a Washington state political organizer and songwriter, replied to the president with a series of messages. One included a picture of the Pope looking incredulously at Trump. “This is pretty much how the whole world sees you. #AMJoy #SundayMorning,” Figueroa posted.
In the pre-dawn hours of June 18, 2017, the president wrote: “The new Rasmussen Poll, one of the most accurate in the 2016 Election, just out with a Trump 50% Approval Rating. That’s higher than O’s #’s!”
Eugene Gu, a Nashville native who worked as a resident in general surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, was ready with a retort. “Covfefe: The same guy who doesn’t proofread his Twitter handles the nuclear button.”
The president of the United States of America then blocked Dr. Gu.
On June 12, 2017, the president shared a news article from Fox News about the opening of a new mining operation. “Congratulations! First new Coal Mine of Trump Era Opens in Pennsylvania,” the president tweeted.
Brandon Neely, a police officer from Tomball, Texas, had a thoughtful response: “Congrats and now black lung won’t be covered under #TrumpCare.”
Officer Neely was blocked by the president.
Joseph Papp, a Pennsylvania former professional road cyclist and anti-doping advocate, replied when the president tweeted on June 3, 2017. Trump tweeted a video with the hashtag: “#WeeklyAddress.”
Papp responded with a pair of tweets: “Greetings from Pittsburgh, Sir.,” and “Why didn’t you attend your #PittsburghNotParis rally in DC, Sir? #fakeleader.”
On June 5, 2017, the president launched two tweets from his account. The first: “The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court – & seek much tougher version!” Followed by: “In any event we are EXTREME VETTING people coming into the U.S. in order to keep our country safe. The courts are slow and political!”
Trump tweeted “We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!”
Nicholas Pappas, a New York City writer and comic, concurred: “Trump is right. The government should protect the people. That’s why the courts are protecting us from him.”
Pappas was blocked.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.