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November 18, 2018

Twitter ruling against Trump sends powerful First Amendment message

May 28, 2018
The ruling of federal Judge Naomi Rice Buchwald says President Trump cannot use Twitter to announce decisions and defend them publically cannot avoid his critics or block them from tweets. (Alex Brandon/AP)

The 79-page ruling of federal Judge Naomi Rice Buchwald that President Trump may not block his critics from reading his tweets and responding to them on his webpage is one that could only have been issued against this President.

That has nothing to do with his views and certainly nothing to do with whatever political or social views Judge Buchwald may hold.




It is because he is the first President — the only President — to use Twitter as a means of officially communicating with the American public.

Only under President Trump has the White House been informed by the National Archives that his tweets are “public records that must be preserved under the Presidential Records Act.”

It is difficult to imagine how they would not be deemed public. The President uses his tweets to inform the public of the widest range of his presidential decisions, to defend those decisions and to criticize his critics.

Only President Trump has used tweets or any equivalent to advise the public of decisions as consequential his appointment of Christopher Wray as FBI Director and the removal of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.

President Trump wanted to block his critics from direct access to his tweets.
President Trump wanted to block his critics from direct access to his tweets. (Richard Drew/AP)

By any reckoning, these and other decisions first communicated to the public via tweets are official acts of the greatest import and lend strong support to Judge Buchwald’s ruling that the tweets are not private musings of some sort but what the law refers to as a public forum.

The consequences of the President’s decision to block his critics from direct access to his tweets are not in doubt. In fact, the President and those suing him-the Knight Foundation and others- formally stipulated that as a result of his blocking decision, his critics “cannot view the President’s tweets, directly reply to these tweets” or use his webpage “to view the common threads associated with his tweets.” There is also no doubt that the reason the President has blocked direct access of his critics to his tweets is nothing less than their political views are at odds with his own.

That was the basis for Judge Buchwald’s decision. There are aspects to it that are complex. But the core of the ruling is plain. A President who uses Twitter to pronounce many of his most critical decisions and defend them to the public cannot avoid his critics or deprive them of the chance to respond in the same place and at the same time as do his supporters. Judge Buchwald’s opinion is a powerful one that sends a powerful First Amendment message.

Floyd Abrams is the author of “The Soul of the First Amendment.”




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