Judge says Trump should try muting rather than blocking his Twitter critics
Tweeters say the president violated the First Amendment by blocking them
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The Associated Press reports that a federal judge in Manhattan in a hearing today suggested that the president should maybe mute instead of blocking his critics on Twitter. The judge in Knight v. Trump encouraged the parties to reach a settlement, otherwise they ran the risk of establishing legal precedent they might not like.
Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute sued the president in July of last year on behalf of seven Twitter users that were blocked by the president. The suit argues that Trump’s Twitter account is a “public forum” under First Amendment law, and that blocking critical voices imposes a viewpoint-based restriction that violates the First Amendment. In addition, blocking Twitter users theoretically prevents them from being able to access official government communications. (The White House has confirmed that the president’s tweets are indeed official statements).
Blocked users are still capable of reading the president’s tweets by logging out of their accounts, and could link to or screencap his tweets to criticize them. They can’t, however, directly reply to Trump. On the other hand, as Judge Naomi Buchwald pointed out today, the president could also just mute his critics. A mute means that the offending tweets are no longer visible to the muter, but the muted account is still free to keep viewing and responding to the tweets.
Barring a settlement, the judge told the parties she’d make a ruling soon.