Before issuing a possible precedent-setting decision about Twitter’s role in First Amendment jurisprudence, a federal judge offered a compromise to President Donald Trump: Mute, don’t block, your Twitter critics. Seven plaintiffs sued the president in September claiming his social media site is the equivalent of public forum and blocking them violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
By blocking followers, Trump can prevent users from seeing his posts or replying to them, shutting them out of a virtual town hall meeting, the plaintiffs argue. U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald suggested the president only mute his detractors, allowing them to read and post to his Twitter feed. Everyone but @realDonaldTrump will be able to see the muted followers’ comments.
“I’m not remotely suggesting that citizens have the right to insist someone in the government read their mail,” said Buchwald, following a hearing Thursday in a Manhattan courtroom. “No one has the time. There are not remotely enough hours in the day.”
A similar lawsuit was filed in October against three Wisconsin state representatives who blocked the Twitter account for One Wisconsin Now.
Judges have little case history upon which to build their decisions in this new First Amendment arena. Buchwald urged both parties to consider her compromise because both sides could be unhappy with her eventual ruling. —B.P.