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Trump unblocks Twitter users after US court said its unconstitutional

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Trump
President
Donald Trump on Monday repeatedly ignored questions about the
death of Sen. John McCain.

Evan
Vucci/AP


  • President Donald Trump unblocked more Twitter users on
    Tuesday after a US court ruled in May that preventing people
    from following him violated individuals constitutional
    rights.
  • US District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that
    comments on the president’s Twitter account was a public forum
    and that blocking users for their views violated their right to
    free speech.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday
unblocked some additional Twitter users after a federal judge in
May said preventing people from following him violated
individuals constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan ruled on
May 23 that comments on the president’s account, and those of
other government officials, were public forums and that blocking
Twitter Inc users for their views violated their right to free
speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University on
August 10 sent the Justice Department a list of 41 accounts that
had remained blocked from Trump’s @RealDonaldTrump account. The
seven users who filed suit had their accounts unblocked in June.

The 41 blocked users include a film producer, screenwriter,
photographer and author who had criticized President Trump or his
policies. At least 20 of those individuals said on Twitter that
Trump had unblocked them on Tuesday.

The 41 users were not a comprehensive list of those blocked by
Trump. Rosie O’Donnell, a comedian, said on Twitter late Tuesday
that she remained blocked.

The White House did not immediately comment late Tuesday.

The ruling has raised novel legal issues. The Internet
Association, a trade group that represents Twitter, Facebook Inc,
Amazon.com, and Alphabet Inc, filed a brief in the case earlier
this month that did not back Trump or the blocked users but urged
the court to “limit its decision to the unique facts of this case
so that its decision does not reach further than necessary or
unintentionally disrupt the modern, innovative Internet.”

Trump has made his Twitter account, with 54.1 million followers,
an integral and controversial part of his presidency, using it to
promote his agenda, announce policy and attack critics. He has
blocked many critics, preventing them from directly responding to
his tweets.

The U.S. Justice Department said the ruling was “fundamentally
misconceived” arguing Trump’s account “belongs to Donald Trump in
his personal capacity and is subject to his personal control, not
the control of the government.”

Buchwald rejected the argument that Trump’s First Amendment
rights allowed him to block people with whom he did not wish to
interact.

Trump could “mute” users, meaning he would not see their tweets
while they could still respond to his, she said, without
violating their free speech rights.

The Internet Association said the court “should make clear that
this case does not implicate the overwhelming majority of social
media accounts throughout the Internet.”

“Despite any First Amendment status that this court might find in
the ‘interactive spaces’ associated with President Trump’s
account, Twitter retains authority to revoke access to both his
account and the account of any user seeking to comment on
President Trump’s account,” the group said.

It also warned “there is a considerable risk that any decision
that may recognize isolated public forums on Twitter will be
misunderstood to hold that Twitter, too, can be subject to First
Amendment scrutiny…Twitter itself is not a state actor when it
blocks or withdraws access to its account-holders or users, and
it is therefore not subject to the First Amendment’s restraints.”

Many of the Twitter users who were blocked by Trump took to the
social media platform to celebrate being unblocked by Trump.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Michael Perry)

Pat Ralph contributed to this report.

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