Since taking office in the White House, President Trump blocked several of his Twitter followers after they criticized or mocked him on his Twitter account @realDonaldTrump.
Seven blocked Twitter followers and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University sued Trump earlier this month. The lawsuit claims that the First Amendment forbids the president from blocking followers because his account is an internet version of a government public square, open to all.
That Twitter lawsuit against Trump just got a boost in a similar case.
In a case in Virginia, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday that an elected official cannot block users on her Facebook page.
Loudoun County Supervisor Phyllis J. Randall was sued after she blocked one of her constituents from her Facebook page. She called the page her “county Facebook page” and posted, “I really want to hear from ANY Loudoun citizen on ANY issues, request, criticism, compliment, or just your thoughts.”
But Randall blocked one of her constituents after he posted allegations on her official Facebook page about supposed corruption by the county’s school board. Randall also deleted his post. The next day, she unblocked the constituent. But he sued, saying he had been unable to post for 12 hours.
U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris ruled that Randall implicitly conceded that she had blocked her constituent “because she was offended by his criticism of her colleagues in the County government.”
The judge concluded that Randall “engaged in viewpoint discrimination” in violation of the First Amendment.
Trump probably will argue that his Twitter account is not a public government forum because, unlike the elected official in Virginia, he set up his Twitter account in 2009 as a private citizen and the account remains his personal account, not a government account.
But a court might reject that argument, citing Trump’s repeated use of his Twitter handle to tell his 34.7 million followers about official government events, policies and government actions.
The most recent example of Trump using his Twitter account to make an official government announcement about a change in the law is Trump’s tweet on Tuesday announcing a new federal rule to ban transgender military personnel.